Marie’s Reading: “All Our Wrong Todays” by Elan Mastai

274050062016 wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Tom knows.  He’s from the way the future is supposed to be: a techno-utopia free of want and war, where all material needs are provided for and the only industry left is entertainment.  However, his life kind of stinks.  His mother is dead and his father is a jerk, and Tom himself is a hopeless schmuck.  It’s down to his really, really stupid decision to go back to the past that history changed, the technology never materialized, and the world is what we’re used to.

And wouldn’t you know: Tom’s life in the wrong 2016 is awesome.  Much better than what he left behind.  Swiftly his dilemma becomes whether his wonderful family and life are worth the countless billions who were erased and the society that never was.

Like the best science fiction, All Our Wrong Todays has plenty of social commentary and ethical questions. But it’s such a refreshing change from dystopian fiction.  Particularly since, in this book, the reality that we know is the dystopia.  We have to kill plants and animals for food.  There’s pollution everywhere and we just keep making more.  Every technology we invent seems to do more harm than good, despite our best efforts.  Tom is shocked when he sees the conditions of our 2016.  Even though his world had problems, they were not on so grand a scale.

Tom is a great narrator, a totally directionless screw-up who seems incapable of changing.  Endlessly self-involved and self-deprecating, Tom’s emotional and personal arc over the course of the story is a rewarding one.  He finds himself cast in the role of hero by the end of the story, commenting on the fact that he suddenly  has a purpose and a duty.  Besides, he’s pretty funny, so that helps the narrative along.

I also really appreciated the optimistic ending.  The future (and the present) is what we make it.  It can be whatever we choose.  We should make sure we choose well.

All Our Wrong Todays is funny and smart, action-packed and cinematic.  It’s also a slightly mind-bending romp through alternate realities and the fabric of time and space.

The Martian by Andy Weir would be a great readalike for this, as would Dark Matter by Blake Crouch.  If you like the humor and cinematic writing style, you could try The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn.  You could also try The Man In the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell, about a selfish time-traveler who has to solve his own murder.



Marie’s Reading: “Dark Matter” by Blake Crouch

darkmatterJason is a physics professor who lives with his artist wife, Daniela, and their son Charlie in Chicago.  They’re moderately prosperous and happy, but both of them always wonder what might have been–before they had their son, they were both on track to become brilliant in their respective fields.

Then one night, Jason is abducted by a stranger in a mask, and from there is thrown into an alternate reality.  All he wants is to get back to his home, his family, and his old life.  But it’ll be a long, dangerous road to get there.

Dark Matter is an action packed thriller with a lightning-quick pace, lots of dialogue, and some mind-bending moments.  Crouch constructs scenes with texture and depth.  There’s enough emotional heft to Jason’s quest to give the book a solid grounding, which isn’t always the case with thrillers.  There are some nice sci-fi touches, too, but Crouch never really goes into the details of how the whole thing works (as the title suggests, it’s something to do with dark matter).  If you’re willing to suspend disbelief, you’ll be rewarded with a smart and poignant story about identity and the nature of the self, as well as what makes the sum total of a life.

With plenty of gunfights and daring escapes.