We were supposed to have jet packs by 2016. And flying cars, and medical scanners, and food synthesisers, and all the rest of that stuff from 60s sci-fi. It wasn’t meant to be fiction. It should have been real. So why isn’t it? Because Tom Barren climbed into a time machine and messed everything up.
All Our Wrong Todays sees Tom stranded in a version of 2016 he barely recognises. Following an accident in his timeline, he ignores protocol and travels back to the moment when a famous scientist (in his reality, anyway) switches on the experimental machine that changes the world.
The Goettreider Engine supplies clean, endless energy that powers a world of plenty, and also generates a special kind of radiation that makes time travel possible. Thanks to Tom, though, the experiment never happened, and therefore – well, the 2016 we just lived through.
It’s all very clever, but it’s also not really the point. Because as well as being an intelligent sci-fi story, it’s also a love story, and kind of a monomyth, and also just an incredibly relatable, insightful story about being in your 30s, feeling like you haven’t achieved anything, and figuring out what’s next.
The chapters are short, and the prose compulsively readable, so it’s one of those books that deserves to be called unputdownable – in an entirely positive way. Being easy to read doesn’t mean something was easy to write, after all, and All Our Wrong Todays is elaborately constructed and incredibly emotionally intelligent; it’s a story with super high stakes that genuinely makes you feel every part of Tom’s awful predicament.
This is Elan Mastai’s first novel, but let’s hope we’re living in the timeline where it’s not his last.