Elan Mastai’s debut is an fun slice of sci-fi, but in the end I found it too clever for its own good.
In 2016, Tom Barren travels back in time and accidentally changes the future to a different 2016 because he’s a bit self-centred, and he’s upset because his girlfriend committed suicide and his mother died. Anyway, the 2016 he used to live in was a kind of science fiction utopia (where kids get jet packs for their 16th birthday and food is so perfect that no-one ever has to eat a bad avocado), but here it’s pretty much a nightmare. So how can he get put time back on track to where it’s supposed to be?
As plots go, this is fantastic. It gives Mastai the platform to explore what is human and magical in our world, and to think about what kind of world we want to live in, rather than the one we’re given. It also means All Our Wrong Todays plays around with characters to brilliant effect – there’s a different version of everyone in every reality, each one overlapping or changing as the plot unfolds.
Whilst Mastai’s characterization is brilliantly playful, in other parts he’s too playful by half – like when he pretty much constantly refers to writing the book:
What’s all that about? It’s not like it’s the only reference to book writing either – there’s tonnes in here. Too clever by half if you ask me. On the other hand, Mastai is clearly a big fan of sci-fi, since there are loads of Kurt Vonnegut references in here, and you can’t be too much of that kind of clever, can you? Cat’s Cradle is the main one, but hey, they’re all great.
It’s an easy read though – rarely is a chapter more than two pages long (perfect if you’re reading on your commute), and you will fly through them. I listened to Mastai’s interview on the Penguin podcast, and he said that this was because he was writing it in the evenings and he wanted to finish a chapter a night. Whilst I enjoyed the shorter chapters to start with, in the end I found them annoying – adding artificial breaks where they’re not needed, giving the story a staccato rhythm instead any kind of flow.
Although Mastai included this short chapter which made me burst out laughing on the tram like a proper weirdo:
In the end, All Our Wrong Todays is pretty enjoyable stuff, but not without its flaws. I’d recommend it though. There’s enough original thinking and positivity in here to leave you smiling at the end.
So what do you think? Have you read it? Did you like it? Would you recommend it?
Let me know in the comments!