All Our Wrong Todays

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Dec 2017

Member Reviews

Wow, just wow - this book is a bit mind-blowing. Author Elan Mastai, Hollywood screenwriter and first-time novelist, has written a unique, creative take on time travel and all the inherent problems involved in not only going back in time, but in attempting to right past mistakes.  Does this sound a bit Back to the Future - ish?  Perhaps, but that would be like comparing Dr. Seuss to Emily Dickinson.  Mastai's take on time travel is deep and puzzling and mind-bending and exciting and humorous and dark...all in just one book.  Main character Tom, who becomes John and then Victor, thanks to different mishaps in time, is a 32 year old whose father invents a time machine that takes him, accidentally, back to the inception of the greatest invention of all time - a generator that has unlimited energy, that creates a 2016 that is reminiscent of the Jetsons.  However, in Tom's time travel, the world is disrupted and he ends up back in our 2016, a world of questionable food choices, lack of environmental protection, and archaic automobiles that stay on the ground.  The voice for Tom is highly engaging, drawing us in to his world through his humor, his frustrations, his eventual insight into what life ultimately should be.  What a provocative choice for a book club as well as a fantastic read on your own; I highly recommend this debut novel!
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Elan Mastai's debut novel All Our Wrong Todays is a delight to read.  It is thoughtful, speculative, reflective science-fiction.  Mastai wanders down plenty of scientific-sounding rabbit trails, enough to make it sound like sci-fi, but not so much that it gets in the way of a great time-travel story.

The story begins in 2016, but not our 2016.  In this alternative timeline, the world's most famous scientist invented the Goettreider engine, which produces limitless energy spurred seemingly unlimited technological progress.  Tom Barren's father, a protege of the more famous Goettreider, is about to become famous himself, as the inventor of time travel.  Tom, the disappointment of the family, the slacker son who has not distinguished himself in any way, screws up the timeline of history by sneaking into his father's lab and traveling back in time to the moment the Goettreider engine is first activated.

When Tom returns to 2016 after his brief foray in the past, he finds himself in our 2016, in a future that has no Goettreider engine and missing all the technological and sociological advances it made possible.  He's the same guy, only with memories from both timelines.  Somehow he has to figure out who he really is.  Plus, he has to convince his family and his girlfriend, who is the same but different in this new timeline, that he's not absolutely crazy.  

Wracked with guilt about potentially having eliminated billions of people who were never born as a result of his tinkering with history, he contemplates trying to fix it.  But as he tries to explain to Goettreider, "time travel is very bad at fixing mistakes.  What it's very good at is creating even worse mistakes."  In this sense, All Our Wrong Todays engages many of the same questions countless movies and books about time travel have raised.  But Mastai does it oh so well!

One of the real-life ideas (in our timeline, and, apparently in the other timeline as well) that Mastai introduces is French philosopher Paul Virilio's idea concept of the integral accident.  As Tom/Mastai describes it, it's "the idea that every time you introduce a new technology, you also introduce the accident of that technology, so you have a responsibility to anticipate not just the good it can do but also the bad it can wreak, not just the glory but also the ruin."  The invention of train travel is also the invention of derailment, for example.  

Tom/Mastai has written not a novel, but a memoir.  "And the best thing about a memoir is it doesn't even need to make sense."  But in an entertaining and thoughtful way, All Our Wrong Todays makes perfect sense, and, whether a novel or a memoir, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of reading it.


Thanks to NetGalley for the complimentary electronic review copy!
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I read for pleasure, entertainment and I read to escape real life.  I thought this book would brig me pleasure, be entertaining and allow me to escape - it did not.

Perhaps I am just too old for this kind of smarmy, childish narration  or too unintelligent to understand the  scientific language used (I needed to look up just a few too many words!!!) but since I do love my time-travel fantasy books I slogged on for as long as I  could. 

Unfortunately I just ended up on the narrator expounding on his sex life and just gave it up. I have nothing against reading about sex -heck I read romances -but this just seemed to me to be more of a 'little boy braggin' than a good attempt at adding some romance.

DNF>>>>> I have better things to do with my life and better things to read.

*ARC supplied by publisher.
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Science fiction is not my genre but this book was really good. Tom Barren is a misfit in a futuristic world. Chosen to understudy a promising chrononaut, Tom changes the history of our future world by time traveling in her place except he really messes things up. Funny and insightful, this novel actually had me thinking " could this really happen and who or where is my alternate persona?"
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I loved the concept of this book, unfortunately more than a quarter of the way into it the main concept had not yet been explored, just the main character's difficult relationship with his parents and the women he has slept with. I'm disappointed. 

(Only one star for enjoyment, the second star is because I still love the premise.)
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Tom Barren comes from an alternate year 2016. The world he lives in is the one people in the 1950s imagined we would have — flying cars, moving sidewalks, moon bases, unlimited energy and resources, and time-travel. When Tom makes a trip to the past to observe a historic occasion, he accidentally interferes and changes the future. He activates the emergency recall back to 2016, but when he gets back he finds himself in our 2016 instead of the one he came from.

This is a clever twist on the time-travel theme. Once Tom returns to the present, he needs to adjust to a lot of changes. The timeline had diverged with some subtle changes and some quite drastic. There is some science and techo stuff, but this is also a story about relationships – Tom’s family, his girlfriend, his career.

The story is told mostly in the first person and had the feel of a memoir. The book does switch to the third person a few times and we get a summary or recap of what has happened to Tom. The beginning was a little slow but picks up once we get past the initial world building. Most of the book takes place in our timeline, but we need to know about Tom’s world in order to understand him.

I found the story lighthearted, entertaining, and at times humorous. While this is definitely scifi, it’s not confusing or difficult to follow, and there is enough story about relationships and even a few romances to keep other genre readers entertained.
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3.5 or 4 stars. Took me a little while to get into this one. The story is told in the first person and the main character is kind of a verbose, whiny loser who spends a good bit of time explaining himself and his situation. But still, I could see that it was going somewhere worth going, so I hung in there. And I'm glad I did, even though it didn't go where I thought it was going to go! Anyway, our MC goes back in time and accidentally changes something and most of the book deals with him in his new reality. He becomes a much more interesting and likeable character and the book deals with some really interesting themes. Some parts were a bit confusing, but overall, it was an entertaining as well as thought-provoking book.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me an e-ARC of this book.
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Tom Barren doesn’t live in the future; he lives in 2016, just like us. But he comes from a place that is just like we’ve always pictured “the future” for decades: flying cars, space tourism, food and clothes made on demand, a more peaceful world. Thing is, he’s a bit of a loser. His father is a genius and Tom, who’s in his early 30s, still has yet to find his own path. A string of events leads his father to hire him, despite his lack of qualifications, to be an “understudy” for one of the “chrononauts” who are preparing to travel back in time using his dad’s great invention: a time machine. The time machine can travel first just to one point and place in time: 1965 San Francisco, where the now-legendary Lionel Goettreider invented and started his Engine, which harnesses the rotation of the earth and somehow produces clean, unlimited power. Everything changed from that date.

After things go horribly wrong with the chrononaut Tom was the backup for, and whom he fell in love with, he ends up making a crazy spur-of-the-moment decision, then creating a huge change in the timeline, and he ends up essentially destroying his own timeline and landing in “our” 2016.

He feels horribly guilty about his actions and the repercussions, but he finds that he likes this life better. His “body,” you could say, has been John, a successful architect who for years has dreamed of the world Tom is from and designed buildings that come from there. He has a sister, which he doesn’t have in his original timeline, and his parents are both more interesting, better balanced, and happier. He looks for this timeline’s version of the Penelope he fell in love with, and he finds a similar Penny who is a great fit for him. Life is great. Except it isn’t. And it’s not “his.”

The book is written in the first person, and Tom just talks on and on about his personality, his failures, his desires, his lost world, his guilt, and so on. He’s pretty annoying. But despite the fact I kind of disliked him and got tired of all his philosophizing, I kinda rooted for him to just choose to be happy.

Of course, things don’t turn out quite that simple, and he ends up facing a big challenge and finally “settling” matters.

For most of this book, it seemed like a lot of narrator navel-gazing. I was almost wondering if this was a self-published book. It seemed like the writer didn’t have an editor to rein him in and not just write whatever he pleased as his brain went off on all kinds of tangents and thoughts. The book is more philosophical than sci-fi, though it starts feeling more like it really gets into the nitty-gritty of what could happen with time travel by the end (and then there’s a segment that’s pretty out-there and circuitous and almost a bit much, but it ends up making some sense for the plot). The tone is kind of strange, too. I wasn’t sure what to think for so much of it, and I somehow lack the proper words and literary comparisons to get it all across. But I appreciated what the author pulled off at the end.
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This book wasnt for me. I just flat out did not like this book but I wish the author best of luck,
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Tom Barren lives in a near-utopian version of our world in 2016, the world that Disney and science fiction optimistically imagined in the 1950s that we would one day have, complete with flying cars, ray guns, space vacations, and other Amazing Stories and Jetson-like technology. There’s a single compelling reason for this: in 1965, a man named Lionel Goettreider invented an engine that produced unlimited clean energy, in the process giving himself a fatal dose of radiation, but also becoming a historic figure on the level of Albert Einstein or Sir Isaac Newton.

Tom is a disappointment to his father, unsuccessful in life, his career, and love. But his father, a genius who has invented a method of time travel, gives Tom a job in his lab after his wife and Tom’s mother dies, not expecting him to amount to anything. Tom is assigned to be the understudy for Penelope Weschler, the career-driven team leader for the very first time travel mission, to watch the initial 1965 experiment with the Goettreider Engine, as invisible witnesses. Penelope and Tom have a one-night stand the night before the mission, and Pamela becomes pregnant, instantly changing her genetic composition and disqualifying her for the mission.

In the fallout, Tom rebelliously activates the time machine with himself as the only passenger, sending himself back to 1965 and inadvertently changing the result of Goettreider’s initial experiment. The emergency return function in the time-travel apparatus activates and sends Tom back to 2016 ― but he awakes in our world, with a kinder and gentler father, a mother who is still alive, a sister he never had before, a more personable and relaxed version of Penelope … and a polluted, conflict-ridden world that appalls him. Tom intends to fix his mistake and bring back the world he is familiar with, but as he develops new relationships in our world, he’s torn between these two versions of his world.

All Our Wrong Todays (2017) begins rather slowly, with an extended setup that could have been tightened up, and the sad, incompetent version of Loser Tom further drags down the story with his whining and self-pity. But once that actual time travel occurs about 25% of the way in, the pace picks up, the element of suspense kicks in, Tom somewhat inexplicably develops a more attractive and engaging personality (though a reason for that is suggested much later in the story), and this novel turned into a quick, gripping read that was almost impossible to put down.

All Our Wrong Todays is a time travel/alternate timelines science fiction novel that actually pays some serious attention to the paradoxes and theoretical difficulties with time travel. For example, Elan Mastai directly addresses the problem that the earth’s movement in space creates for would-be time travelers.

"Marty McFly didn’t appear thirty years earlier in his hometown of Hill Valley, California. His tricked-out DeLorean materialized in the endless empty blackness of the cosmos with the Earth approximately 350,000,000,000 miles away. … The Terminator would probably survive in space because it’s an unstoppable robot killing machine, but traveling from 2029 to 1984 would’ve given Sarah Connor a 525,000,000,000-mile head start."

The Gottreider Engine provides an unanticipated anchor, a bread crumb of tau radiation that can be followed through space and time. It’s an ingenious solution.

Mastai combines his periodic forays into the theoretical aspects of time travel and alternate timelines, with a suspenseful plot and some surprisingly insightful writing that helps to ground Tom’s breezy, conversational narrative voice. At different times All Our Wrong Todays reminded me strongly of both Stephen King‘s 11/22/63 and Blake Crouch‘s Dark Matter. Despite its slow start, overall it’s a solid science fiction novel and an enjoyable, absorbing read.
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All Our Wrong Todays is a hard book to describe without giving anything away, and I feel that would eliminate some of the fun for the reader. Generally, it deals with time travel and its implications: alternate timelines and paradoxes, etc. In its style and structure it reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut's writings. Throughout the strange twists and turns, what holds the story together is its humanity and characterizations. If you are looking for an imaginative science fiction story this does the job, but there is so much that any reader can identify with on a personal level. This is a special book and I look forward to reading more from Elan Mastai. Five stars, highly recommended.
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This is a review of an ARC provided by Netgalley.  Thank you, Netgalley for allowing me to read this wonderful book.

"All our Wrong Todays" is an excellent, imaginative thrill ride.  There are only two reasons that I didn't give it 5 starts.  First, the final quarter of the book did run a little slow.  Second, I would have liked to have seen more of Tom's reactions to finding himself in our world.  However, other than that, it was a great ride.  I've heard that movie rights have already been sold for this book, and I hope those rumors are true.  I can't wait to see who will be cast.
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It's about time. Really. In addition to having a wonderfully apt title, Elan Mastai's first novel All Our Wrong Todays (Dutton Penguin, digital galley) is a wonderfully entertaining and timely tale of alternate realities.

Narrator Tom Barron lives in a 2016 Toronto that resembles the techno-utopia imagined by cheesy SF novels and shows of the 1950s, all flying cars and helpful robots and synthetic food. As every schoolchild knows, this was all made possible by the 1965 invention of the Goettreider Engine, which generates clean energy. Tom's father, an overbearing research scientist, has finally built the world's first time machine and plans to send ace chrononaut (time traveler) Penelope Weschler back to 1965 to observe the debut of the Goettreider. But then Tom falls in love with perfection-obsessed Penelope, which leads to disastrous consequences that are further compounded when he travels back to 1965. As every time traveler knows, you don't mess with things in the past or you risk messing up the timeline and life as we know it  Oh dear. Tom's arrival in 1965 means the Goettreider Engine fails in spectacular fashion, and when Tom is catapulted back to 2016, he finds himself in our 2016, all fossil-fueled and climate-change challenged.

It's a clever conceit, that we are living in the dystopia, but Mastai has more tricks to play. Parts of Tom's life are better in this second 2016. His dad is a happy science teacher, and his literature-loving mom is still alive. He has a sister and a career as successful architect. Still, when Tom starts trying to tell everyone about his time travels, they think he has suffered a head injury and is just talking about the novel he was going to write. Even his new love, bookstore owner Penny, doubts him. To prove he's not crazy, Tom goes in search of the real-life creator of the Goettreider Engine, journeying to San Francisco and Hong Kong, and eventually back to 1965 again. Oh dear. Messing with that timeline.

All Our Wrong Todays reminded me of Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, with its witty tone and provocative ideas. It also wears its knowledge lightly -- like The Big Bang Theory -- so that even those who've forgotten high school physics or aren't into science fiction can enjoy the ride. Sure, it's kind of out there, but so much is these days. I was pleased to know that even in alternate realities, people still read Dickens' Great Expectations. So read All Our Wrong Todays. It's a good time.
from On a Clear Day I Can Read Forever
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Tom Barren lives in an alternate version of the year 2016 from the one that we know. In his world technology reigns with things such as flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases. When a time travel mishap lands Tom in our version of reality though it seems more like a dystopian wasteland to Tom without the numerous inventions he knew his whole life.

Living in this version of 2016 Tom soon finds different versions of his own family and also the girl that he felt destined to be with exist in this other reality. Now for Tom he has a decision to make on whether he should try to save the world he knew or stay in the one he accidentally ended up in.

All Our Wrong Todays is a science fiction read that ends up with the majority of the story taking place in the world that we know now. All the while the main character is adjusting to our world we learn what his had been like as he struggles with being torn between his futuristic society that wasn’t quite perfect and the life he has found in our world.

The idea behind the story was actually quite interesting, somewhat leading upon the idea of the butterfly effect when it comes to time travel. This was one that had me hooked to see how it would all work out for the main character.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.
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Tom Barren is from the future. A much better future. A timeline where dreams of flying cars, service robots and a life a leisure from the 1950s were realized thanks to the amazing Goettreider engine, a source of unlimited free clean power. Tom travels back in time to witness the moment when the engine was first turned on--the moment when our timeline and his diverged--and screws everything up. Attempting to return to his timeline that no now longer exists, he emerges in a third, much like ours but with some key differences, inhabiting the body of an alternate version of himself. No one believes him to be other than the person (a jerk named John Barron in this third timeline) the body has always held. Tom sets off to prove he is in fact Tom from another future not the jerk John, and is caught in a scheme to again travel back in time, to right his original wrong and return the timelines to their original state. But Tom has come to like where he is. He likes John's family and his new girlfriend. Can he alter the timelines to create a future that offers the best of each?

Interesting concept but execution is just ok. Todays is Mastai's first novel and reads like it. The beginning is weak and repetitive. I almost gave up on it more than once. How many times must the Tom Barren of the future tell us he is a worthless loser? Every page. Sometimes more than once per page. How many times must we hear that the future is awesome and his dream girl Penelope is perfect? Every other page. Once or twice or even thrice is more than enough. The middle chapters are much better, more concise and driven. The last quarter of the novel really moves, perhaps a bit too quickly to a rousing finish. If I were Mastai's editor, when he reached the end I would have sent him back to the first chapters to apply what he learned to re-write the beginning.

Two final comments: 

1. I never cared for Tom, a problem when the entire novel is written from his perspective. Found Penelope and Penny much more interesting. In fact a better novel might have emerged from sending the perfect Penelope back in time to accidentally change the timelines and then watch her try to fix them. Tom was too twee for me from beginning to end.

2. I liked the flawed time machine invented by Goettreider where time reverses but at exactly the same pace as it advances; i.e., going back sixty years requires standing in the same place for sixty years. Imagine the mental challenge! Mastai does and it's one of the cleverest parts of All our wrong Todays.

On my buy, borrow skip scale. A tepid borrow.
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How do I rate this?  
Well, the beginning was freaking amazing...then it slowed down to where I almost DNF'd it.  It picked back up at the 30% mark...then it got slow again at the 70% mark and again, I almost DNF'd it.  This was the trend in this one for me.  The reason why I gave it 3 stars, was because some of his writing blew me away-especially when he wrote about his mother.  The family dynamics were also all too real for me as well. 
The synopsis sounded rad and had aspects I love in a story; time travel and a sci-fi. Unfortunately, it felt I had already read this storyline somewhere else. Not much happened throughout the general story line and the world building was nonexistent... in all timelines. The ending was a cop out to me.  There were though a few times, I was surprised to where the story had gone and the turn of events.
Hence, why again I gave it a 3 stars. There were parts I loved and then parts I hated. So overall, it was a fun read at times-and I liked it-just didn't love this one...bummer.  

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest opinion. My thanks to Elan Mastai and PENGUIN GROUP Dutton for the opportunity.
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Wow - there is a LOT going on here.  I was originally drawn to the book because of the time travel angle - one I really enjoy. I rather rapidly discovered that it was so much more than that though - mostly in a good way, but sometimes in a slightly over-reaching one... The main plot line is still about time travel and the law of unintended consequences. But the book is not just about time - it is also a love story, a family drama, a "be careful what you wish for" cautionary tale, a dystopian warning, a self-help/personal growth narrative, a techno-thriller, and an exegesis on the dangers of dissatisfaction. That's a lot of things to cover in less than 400 pages...  For the most part, the multiple topics/genres are handled well, although there are times that they feel a little too much. There were some eye rolls, where I feared we were heading into trope territory, but they usually resolved themselves in some odd or unusual way that fed back into the main narrative points without too much distraction. All in all, this is a complicated work from a talented author - juggling that many ideas while still maintaining an essential, underlying theme (self-stated: "there's no such thing as the life you're supposed to have") is difficult; doing it with aplomb in a readable, thought-provoking AND entertaining fashion must be nigh on impossible - yet Mastai manages handily.
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All Our Wrong Todays is a highly enjoyable science-fiction novel that is humorous and thought-provoking. Told through a first-person perspective, it takes us through Tom's recounting of events before and after he, you know, altered reality. Tom is certainly no hero, in fact, he is quite ordinary and very much flawed. His voice is endearing, self-deprecating, and at times provides one-liners that, to me, are laugh out loud funny (no easy feat when it comes to books). Particularly interesting is how Tom develops as a character, especially when faced with his alternate self. While at times I did find descriptions to be a little to descriptive with regards to the science and mechanics of it all, and certain passages a tad bit long-winded, I could't help but enjoy this wonderful and creative story. There is action, intrigue, compelling characters, and a surprising amount of depth. If this is a genre you like to reach for, then All Our Wrong Todays is definitely worth a read.
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Tom lives in an alternate reality much more advanced than ours.  People live in architectural wonders with myriad technologies that make life much easier and suffering basically nonexistent.  Tom's genius father has created a time machine and in order to prove to himself that he is not the wastrel son and to take revenge on his father, Tom decides to illicitly travel back in time.  He somehow messes this all up and ends up in today's current world, which he considers dystopian compared to his own.  The plot behind this novel is inventive and I really thought the idea of the two alternate realities interesting, however, I found myself not really connecting to the characters and at times it proved a slog as I stopped really caring which reality Tom ended up in.  I can see why people really loved this book for its exciting premise and overall I mostly liked it.  I received this book from Penguin's First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review.
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Wow!  Time travel, alternate futures, sci-if (reality?)
For fans of Douglas Adams, or anybody who loves the written word, dystopia/utopia, time travel, physics, paradoxes, anything that requires your brain to work, please read this!
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