Cover Image: All Our Wrong Todays

All Our Wrong Todays

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A couple of fresh takes on time travel/alternate realities/the road less traveled here. It's a brick of a book, but very rewarding in the end - I was thinking about the characters and setting and situation long after I closed the back cover.
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Time travel novels have been done again and again so I was somewhat skeptical when I started reading, but Mastai gives a genuinely new and interesting twist on the concept. The book grabbed me right away and was gripping and interesting until the end.
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Weary, Cheeky, and (Maybe? Just a Wee Bit?) Wise

** Trigger warning for rape and suicide. **

So, the thing is, I come 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. 

It’s hard to know how to start telling this story. But, okay, 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. All that dazzling, transformative technology our grandparents were certain was right around the corner. The stuff of world’s fairs and pulp science-fiction magazines with titles like Fantastic Future Tales and The Amazing World of Tomorrow. Can you picture it? 

Well, it happened. 

It all happened, more or less exactly as envisioned. I’m not talking about the future. I’m talking about the present. Today, in the year 2016, humanity lives in a techno-utopian paradise of abundance, purpose, and wonder. 

Except we don’t. Of course we don’t. We live in a world where, sure, there are iPhones and 3D printers and, I don’t know, drone strikes or whatever. But it hardly looks like The Jetsons. Except it should. And it did. Until it didn’t. But it would have, if I hadn’t done what I did. Or, no, hold on, what I will have done.


It’s amazing how much damage one penis can do.


Tom Barren is an outlier, though not in a good way: he’s a ne’er do well, living in paradise. His is a world of flying cars that can pilot themselves. Of food synthesizers and clothing recyclers. Urban planning taken to outrageous levels, with interlocking buildings, fantastical skyscapes, and massive biosphere preserves. Patches that monitor and adjust your blood alcohol content (“booze cruise”). Android sex dolls and interactive storytelling. Complete gender equality (!). Corporations that actually strive to improve consumers’ quality of life, rather than market useless junk just to turn a profit (!!!#$#@^).

Sounds like the stuff of fiction, right? Except all this really did happen, thanks to the Goettreider Engine and the unlimited clean energy it generated by harnessing the movement of the Earth. 

This was the world we were meant to live in. That is, until our narrator bumbled into his father’s time machine and accidentally sabotaged Lionel Goettreider’s infamous 1965 experiment, thus altering the trajectory of history – right before the fail safe protocols boomeranged his sorry butt home. Only when he woke up, it was in our crappy world, complete with global conflicts, mass species extinctions, accelerating climate change, and (presumably) a looming election that would put a reality teevee buffoon in the White House. 

Somewhat ironically, Tom’s life changes for the better: in this reality, he goes by John. Rather than being a disappointment to his genius father, he’s a successful architect. And, oh yeah, his mother is still alive!

Can Tom somehow reverse the course of history and set things right? Does he even want to?

ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS is a fun and satisfying time travel romp that’s got a few tricks up its thermal stranded sleeve. The wibbily wobbly timey wimey stuff is highly enjoyable – I especially loved learning about Tom’s world – though it is a lot to keep straight by story’s end. (But this is kind of par for the course.) The Tom/John and Penelope/Penny plot line reminded me a little of Blake Crouch’s time travel/alternate reality tale, 2016’s DARK MATTER, but the two are completely different beasts: ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS is a little more absurd and tongue-in-cheek. The balance of humor here is pretty much perfect here, imho. 

As for the narrator, you either kinda-sorta like him or you hate him. Tom is your typical mediocre straight white dude, with one key difference: he’s well aware of and will readily admit to his mediocrity. He harbors no delusions of grandeur or self-entitlement. He’s a f-up, and he knows it. He’s trying to do better but darn it, it’s hard work!

Honestly, all the self-denigration rather ingratiated Tom to me: sometimes it was like Mastai was holding up a mirror. A distorted funhouse mirror that exacerbates all your flaws and creates new ones where none existed, but still. I could relate to Tom more than I’d care to admit. If you’ve got self-esteem issues, you might just empathize. 

I wasn’t too keen on the rape scene, mostly because it felt a little too much like a tool, a plot device to steer the story in one direction or another. The word “rape” doesn’t even appear in the book, even as Mastai stresses that what happened to Penny was A Very Bad Thing. The thing is, I suspect that a significant percentage of readers won’t even label this as a sexual assault, which is why it’s so important to clearly and emphatically identify it as such. (“Attack” is the harshest term used.)

As an aside, the food synthesizers must mean that all the food in Tom’s world is vegan, or could easily be made so …

[Insert “I want to go there.” gif here]


Read while: “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads blares in the background.

** Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. **
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I really wanted to write a full review of this book, but I haven't had time, so here is a lil mini-review! This novel is about Tom, who lives in 2016, but in the future that was imagined in the 1960s (flying cars, food-generating microwaves etc). His father is inventing a time machine, and Tom accidentally goes back in time, messes some things up, and winds up back in our 2016, with normal gas-guzzling cars and food that you actually have to make. As he struggles to get back to his own future, Tom learns a lot about himself, and begins to meet people who make him question whether going back to his future is worth it. I just had so much fun reading this book. Mastai did a great job writing Tom, who is a very entertaining and enjoyable narrator. I read this via e-book, and thus took forever to get through it, but if it had been a print book I think I could have read this in one sitting. I definitely recommend this book, especially for summer! 5/5 stars.
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So... if you're starting to feel like you're living in a dystopia? That's because you are, at least according to this novel. 

At the beginning of this book, Tom, the narrator, is living in 2016 in the world we're SUPPOSED to live in. A cheap, clean, renewable source of fuel has been discovered, and it allows us to live in a Jetsons kind of a world, a world in which punk rock never happened, because there was no need for working class people to rage, a clean world with teleportation and hover-cars, less dirt and disease, more social justice. Then Tom becomes the world's first chrononaut- time traveller- and he goes back in time just long enough to f*** everything up. When his time-travel apparatus automatically transfers him back to 2016, it's OUR 2016 where he's at first horrified to find himself.

This isn't the kind of thing I usually read, but I got an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, and I liked it. It's a pretty fresh premise with a good amount of heart. As far as living in this 2016 dystopia goes, I feel a little bitter about teleportation not being a thing-- but I do enjoy punk rock music.
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LOVED! The bold cover art looks amazing in person 😍 I'm def watching out for this author from now on! ❤ This one features time travel, alternate timelines, a hint of romance, and high tech science. WIN!
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A very interesting alternative future with great characters and a fun and emotional premise.
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"Busy, Busy, Busy"

In Kurt Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle" the god/prophet/conman Bokonon always whispers "busy, busy, busy" ... "whenever [he] thinks about how complicated and unpredictable the machinery of life really is." That came to mind while I was reading this book. Our poor time-line destroying hero, once he sets the action in motion, is just busy, busy, busy.

But here's the good part. This is a wonderful time travel book for people who don't necessarily like, or who become impatient with, time travel books. For me, I enjoyed "Back to the Future". I thought it was clever and well-plotted. But, I was indifferent to the sequels. It all just got too cumbersome and complicated, to me, to be fun. Well, this book sort of solves that "Back to the Future" problem, mostly by not being so exclusively time-travely.

The first part, about a quarter of the book, sets out our hero/narrator's current "now" and the other, parallel "now" he accidentally messed up and left behind. We learn about the history and the development of time travel, and we meet all of the major characters. In a way this section involves building alternate worlds, and the worlds that are described are fascinating, and loaded with sly commentaries on our own particular "now". The narrator's voice is rueful and a bit sad sack, (he did after all destroy an entire future time line), but the writing is peppered with very funny and/or insightful observations, throwaway lines, and bits of business. Finally, though, we get to the point at which our hero travels back in time and throws a figurative monkey wrench into the works, and then the rest of the book takes off. 

This rest of the book consists of multiple efforts to undo what was done, and various characters scream along various time and causality paths as things get more and more complicated and everyone is busy, busy, busy. The beauty is that for this part the reader can just go with the flow. The narration is still funny and insightful, but you aren't penalized if your attention wanders from time to time. Indeed, perhaps as a joke but also perhaps as a clever aid, every now and then the narrator includes a "summary" chapter that simply recaps and summarizes what has just gone on in the book. Every time travel book should follow this practice.

I have to admit that while I enjoyed this book - the writing, the narrator's voice, the deadpan humor, the plotting, the sciencey explanations - I was ready for it to end when it did. The plot threads had tied up nicely; the characters were at rest; the author had said what he wanted to say about society, justice, and lives well lived. It was a fine ride.

(Please note that I received a free ecopy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)
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1.5ish stars. 

Another time travel narrative used mostly as a vehicle to explore relationships or morality or whatever. If Dark Matter is the ultra-cool action thriller variety, this is the quirky rom-com/action thriller amalgamation. 

It's got all the Ingredients: the everyman "I'm no hero" male lead; the twee, nerdy, but unconventionally beautiful and intelligent female lead who gets the male lead in a way that no one else can; the meet-cute naturally that takes place at her book store, because awww; their instant love-at-first-sight soul bond that transcends space and time; the "light banter" and "witty repartee."

Problems with the ingredients: while the male lead is supposed to reform from a manipulative jerk with daddy issues to a charmingly self-deprecating and wholly relatable (but still obviously noble) average joe, his transformation is entirely too self-aware and maudlin- and he never stops being super annoying; the contrived witticisms don't land, and the weighty, heart-felt monologues would probably be more powerful with a moving soundtrack and some closeups of forced tears; Tom's lampshading that he's dumb and not a very good writer doesn't make up for the fact that he's pretty dumb and the writing isn't very good.

Bottom line: regardless of its content, a decent rom-com hinges on the charm and charisma of its leads. Too bad Tom/John is obnoxious. He's obnoxious and pretentious. He's obnoxious and pretentious and self-pitying. He's obnoxious and pretentious and self-pitying and really just not that interesting. Which pretty well describes the book as a whole.
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I'm no longer interested in reading this book at this time.  Thank you for the opportunity!
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Review here:
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Though this book didn't turn out to me up my alley, I did find it to be entertaining and well-written.
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All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai is not your average time travel novel. It imagines what would happen if the most important scientific experiment ever goes awry thanks to an inept slacker who also happens to be a chrononaut (fancy name for time traveler).

In this novel, our world is the dystopia while Tom's world is a beautiful, futuristic, paradise. (I would completely choose to live in his world, by the way, despite the technocratic leanings.) Instead of just magically being this way, we learn exactly what the tipping point in history was, then our dear Tom ruins it.

The beginning and the end of this novel were especially delightful. So many pop culture references, jokes, and self-deprecation. The middle moved a bit slowly as Tom sorted out thoughts, feelings, and relationships while I was begging to hear more about the future and how Tom was going to get back there (or not!).

It was also fun to read a novel that was so aware of the reader, even breaking the fourth wall quite often and with purpose. (There is probably a real literary term for that, but I went to law school instead of an MFA program, so cut me some slack). Also, the author reads the audiobook, which can go horribly wrong, but instead went very right in this instance.
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Oh man oh man oh man! What a book. I got an early reader copy of this from NetGalley and oh boy am I lucky I ever did. I wish I had a time machine so I could back to the beginning and read it all again from the start, conveniently erasing my earlier reading from my memories so I could relive it all over again fresh.
I loved the tone and voice of Tom, the predominant narrator, loved the style, the telling, the twists and turns. Goddamn it's enough to make a fellow time travel writer jealous. This is an excellent book with some fun wrinkles in the time travel genre, a lovable bumbler of a main character, and is just a great read.
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I had ten hours to spend last month in the airport in Buenos Aires. Thankfully I had downloaded All Our Wrong Todays. It is fiction/science/romance and the unusual premise and quirky -- and fascinating -- characters totally drew me in. I was engaged for my entire airport day. It's difficult to believe this is a first novel. I've been recommending All Our Wrong Todays and will keep doing so. Thank you, Elan Mastai, for a memorable book.
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Review is in the April 2017 issue of
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I liked this book, but it took me a long time to get through it. It wasn't as "sticky" a read as some others. The premise is good, the characters are winning, and I really liked seeing the protagonist's relationships change as his world changed. I liked the ending, and overall I liked the book.
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When I read the synopsis for 'All Our Wrong Todays' by Elan Mastai, I knew I wanted to read it.  The premise sounded like something right up my alley, but I didn't fall for it right away.  It took a bit of time.

The story is narrated by Tom, a guy from the future we should be having right now. An invention from the early 1960s made all the difference.  The only problem is that Tom isn't having such a great life.  He lost his mom and his dad is kind of a workaholic jerk who is building a time machine to go back and visit the moment that the invention got turned on.  Tom is in love with a woman named Penelope who may or may not even he exists. 

So, when tragedy hits, Tom steals the time machine and ends up in our timestream.  He finds things different here, both better and worse.  Should he stay or should he try to go back to where he came from.

It was a slow build for me, and I wasn't sure this was going to be a book I liked.  Even though Tom's present is ideal, I found myself a bit bored with it.  It's only when he ends up in our time where the book picks up for me.  I liked the second act a lot more, but the third act sealed the deal for me.  This is a book about some bigger things than an idealized world and cool gadgets.  It's also about smaller things as well, and they are just as important.  In the end, I absolutely loved this book.

I received a review copy of this ebook from Penguin Group Dutton and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you for allowing me to review this ebook.
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