Time-trav­el­ling moron leads ex­plo­ration of the good life


The Hamilton Spectator - - BOOKS - DENE MOORE Dene Moore is a Métis writer and ed­i­tor in Bri­tish Columbia. Spe­cial to the Star

We live in a tech­no­log­i­cal par­adise, where no­body wants for any­thing. The utopian fu­ture as imag­ined in “The Jet­sons” has come to pass — tele­por­ta­tion, hover cars, food pills and moon bases.

Or, we could have lived in such a utopia, ex­cept for Tom Bar­ren, the most hi­lar­i­ously in­com­pe­tent time trav­eller since Marty McFly stum­bled out of the DeLorean in “Back to the Fu­ture.”

That’s the premise of “All Our Wrong Todays,” the de­light­ful de­but novel of award-win­ning Toronto screen­writer Elan Mas­tai, whose film cred­its in­clude “The F Word” and “The Sa­mar­i­tan” — in fact, Para­mount has al­ready bought the film rights to this novel.

Through a se­ries of blun­ders, ac­ci­dents and bad de­ci­sions, Tom finds him­self the world’s very first time trav­eller.

Pro­pelled by grief, he hi­jacks a time ma­chine in­vented by his fa­ther to re­turn from his idyl­lic 2016 to the most im­por­tant day in the his­tory of the world — the 1965 ac­ti­va­tion of an en­gine that sup­plies an end­less sup­ply of clean en­ergy that fu­els an end­less num­ber of tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances.

But Tom is a self-ad­mit­ted moron who no one — not even he — ever wanted to come near the most im­por­tant sci­en­tific dis­cov­ery since the afore­men­tioned en­gine. Things go just as he and ev­ery­one else might have ex­pected — very badly.

To make a long and wildly en­ter­tain­ing story short, Tom un­wit­tingly and wit­lessly al­ters the time­line by dis­rupt­ing the most im­por­tant sci­en­tific dis­cov­ery in the his­tory of his world.

Wak­ing to find him­self in hos­pi­tal in our 2016, he quickly re­al­izes the world is not the same. We don’t live in par­adise. We live in the very “dull, va­pid, charm­less” world as it ex­ists for us to­day.

“I know you think it’s changed a lot since then, be­cause of iPhones and drone strikes and 3D print­ers and, I don’t know, gluten-free pret­zels,” Tom ex­plains to the reader. “But to me that stuff feels like the early 1970s. The hos­pi­tal I woke up in might as well have been a medieval tor­ture cham­ber, ev­ery­thing looked so clumsy and bar­baric.”

His name isn’t Tom any­more and he’s not a moron. He’s wildly suc­cess­ful and am­bi­tious. The love of his life in this re­al­ity is not dead, his f ather is not a hor­ri­ble hu­man per­pet­u­ally dis­ap­pointed in him and his mother is still alive.

Still, he’s racked with guilt for, well, break­ing the world, Tom is first de­ter­mined to set things right, only to dis­cover his life is much bet­ter on this “sad, bro­ken planet.”

Mas­tai’s in­tri­cate plot takes the wrung-out time-travel ruse to new territory.

A genre-hop­ping, laugh-out­loud sci-fi love story, “All Our Wrong Todays” at its heart is a de­cep­tively pro­found ex­plo­ration of what makes a good life and why our species seems hell-bent on self-an­ni­hi­la­tion.

Clever and en­ter­tain­ing, it ex­plores the small dif­fer­ences that di­vide what we are from what we could be and what we want to be.


Toronto screen­writer Elan Mas­tai is the au­thor of “All Our Wrong Todays.”


“All Our Wrong Todays,” by Elan Mas­tai, Dou­ble­day, 384 pages, $32.

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