All Our Wrong Todays
By Elan Mastai
Elan Mastai has conjured up something exciting and fun, a mashup of alternative history, time travel, and dystopian genres, with a healthy dose of romance mixed in. Though he does run off the rails—or maybe falls out of the time slip—a couple of times, readers will find the story, told in first person in 137 micro chapters, generally races along, with small cliffhangers interspersed to goose you along. If you’re looking for something different, you’ll find it in All Our Wrong Todays.
Tom Barren lives in the world of 2016, but it is not our 2016. It’s the 2016 we dream of, that our sci-fi writers for decades have imagined, a sleek world without want, with every need catered to, with an ecologically healthy planet, and with cities of swirling curves and technology dreamed of and captured on film from the days of the opening scenes of Metropolis. However, Tom is something of a failure, a botcher of most things, a young man of thirty-two with a difficult relationship with his brilliant physicist father, who lost his mother years before in a tragic accident (they still occur in the near perfect future, because, as Tom points out several times, every invention comes with an accident built in).
The Goettreider Engine, first turned on by Lionel Goettreider on July 11, 1965, has made Tom’s utopian world possible. As you might expect, the world honors and worships the memory of Goettreider. Tom’s father, Victor, wants to do more; he wants to make visiting the very moment that changed the world forever the introduction of his new invention, a time machine, for maximum impact, visiting on the fiftieth anniversary date. Since Tom can’t do much of anything on his own, Victor puts him on the backup team of chrononauts shadowing a picture of perfection named Penny Weschler. Oh well, in every plan, no matter how brilliant and meticulously conceived, potential disaster lurks. So it is here, when Tom makes two mistakes and propels himself to the fateful day, and back again to the world we know as 2016. In this world, he finds the meaning of his life, his true self, and something he never had, true and abiding love.
Elan presents the story as Tom’s own account of how we ended up with the world we have, but different, too, because after saving the world, and as he likes to say, reality, Tom and his family gives us something we hope for but have no certainty of gaining: a bright future approaching the utopia he once lived in. w/c