Time-travelling moron leads exploration of the good life
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.