All Our Wrong Todays
By Elan Mastai
You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren’s 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed . . . because it wasn’t necessary.
Except Tom just can’t seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that’s before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.
But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and—maybe, just maybe—his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents, and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future—our future—is supposed to be.
This book was humorous, easy to read, entertaining and enjoyable to read. The protagonist, Tom, draws you straight into the book and makes you care about what has happened and what is going to happen.
Tom Barren is from the 2016 we should have been living in, an alternate reality.
“So, the thing is, I came from the world we were supposed to have. That means nothing to you, obviously, because you live here in the crappy world we do have. But it never should’ve turned out like this. And it’s all my fault – well me and to a lesser extent my father and, yeah, I guess a little bit Penelope.”
“You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Flying cars, robot maids, food pills, teleportation, jet packs, moving sidewalks, ray guns, hover boards, space vacations, and moon bases….Well it happened. It’s all happened, more or less exactly as envisioned. I’m not talking about the future. I’m talking about the present."
I liked that the author included Tom’s musings on whether he should tell his story in first or third person.
Maybe the first person is the wrong way to tell this story. Maybe if I take refuge in the third person I’ll find some sort of distance or insight or at least peace of mind. It’s worth a try.
“Tom Barren wakes up into his own dream….I’m sorry – I can’t write like this. It’s fake. It’s safe. The third person is comforting because it’s in control, which feels really nice when relating events that were often so out of control…I’m not writing this to make myself comfortable. If I wanted comfort, I’d write fiction.”
Tom spends a large portion of time talking about how much better things were in his reality.
You know that sinking feeling you get when you cut into an avocado, only to find that it’s either hard and under ripe or brown and bruised under it’s skin? Well, I didn’t know that could even happen until I came here. Every avocado I ever ate was perfect.
I didn’t even realise I could take for granted because it was simply the way things were. But that’s the point of course – the way things were….never was.“
In July 111, 1965, Lionel Goettreider invented the future. Goettreider was famous in Tom’s reality as he invented the energy source that made all the other inventions, including time travel, possible. School kids learnt how to spell his name, his personal history and went to museums featuring his invention.
Tom’s family life was complicated. He was a sounding board for his mother for all the frustrations that came from selflessly sacrificing her life and her wants to look after his father’s needs. He was the thing that stopped her having a breakdown and they had a close relationship. His relationship with his father on the other hand was fractious. He was a source of constant disappointment to his genius father.
My mother, Rebecca Barren died four months ago in a freak accident. Yes, despite the many technological advances of my world, people still got killed for no good reason. People also acted like arseholes for no good reason. But, sorry, I’m trying to tell you about my mother not my father. His mother made his father promise on her death bed that he would look out for their son and decides to offer him a job which is where he meets Penelope.
Penelope Weschler worked for his father, who is also his boss. She was training to be one of the first people to use his time machine and because Tom is biologically matched he gets to work alongside her. An error in the lab means they have to get naked in front of each other whilst they are decontaminated and afterwards Tom can’t stop thinking about her. The results of his fascination with her have massive repercussions in his reality.
“When you invent a new technology, you also invent the accident of that technology. When you invent the car, you also invent the car accident. When you invent the plane, you also invent the plane crash…The Accident doesn’t just apply to technology, it also applies to people. Every person you met introduced the accident of that person to you. What can go right and what can go wrong. There is no intimacy without consequence. What brings me back to Penelope Weschler and the accident of us. Of all of us.”
Chapter 56 made me smile and was an unusual addition to the book. I also liked the summary chapters.
In our reality Tom is called John Barren. His family life and romantic life are better in this reality and he is happy. However, to get this happiness he has wiped out his reality and he knows deep down he should do something about it.
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