The Dystopia of 2016 in All Our Wrong Todays

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I may have only attained rudimentary success in college level science and the intricacies of physics may be a bit beyond me, but I enjoy reading about science and all of the possibilities it entails. For those of you who dream of an alternate reality and a futuristic utopia, you need look no further than All of Our Wrong Todays by Canadian screen-writer-turned-author Elan Mastai.

In this entertaining and imaginative debut novel, Mastai tells the trans-dimensional tale of lab worker Tom Barren, an everyday man who has a good heart but struggles to find his place in the world. This normal often feels inadequate and a like a disappointment to his famous super-genius father whose lab employs him.

After two life-changing and heart-breaking events wherein he loses his mother and the love of his life, Tom becomes desperate to do something extraordinary, to be the first at something for once, or to feel anything at all. He is alone, resentful and depressed, and it is at this point that he makes one bad decision — a decision that changes the very fabric of reality.  His reality, that is.  Not ours.

Our reality, our 2016, is a mistake of epic proportions. It was never to be, and only happened because of one man’s impulsive decision to take his father’s time machine out on a joyride so that he can be the first to witness an historical event. This novel succeeds in turning a common time travel plot on its head: What if our reality is not supposed to be? Are we actually living in a dystopian society?

That is the premise of All of Our Wrong Todays, a fictional memoir told in the first-person at a brisk pace. As described in the first 100 pages, according to Tom, life was actually supposed to be much different for all of us. All of those fun-filled futuristic visions that people were sure were going to happen actually came to fruition because of one man’s decision.

Lionel Goettreider’s choice to throw the lever on his engine that would either change the course of humanity or potentially cause at least a partial apocalypse, worked in the alternate 1965. The scientist manages to harness the power of the earth’s rotation safely and through cause and effect, leads to the futuristic utopia that Tom knows and misses (in some respects).

The technology mentioned in All of Our Wrong Todays is straight out of Hanna-Barbera’s classic cartoon The Jetsons. Take, for instance, the flying cars, space vacations, moon hotels, teleportation, billboards that are tailored to your individual interests, food pills and numerous other aspects of this alternate reality that no longer exist because of Tom’s actions. Technology in Tom’s time fixed all of our problems; there is no poverty, no material want, no crime, and no pollution.  But it didn’t solve the question of human nature and all of the messy emotions that accompany it.

What Tom does not realize at first is that in this “wasteland,” people actually have to eat real food, fossil fuels are necessary, and technology has stalled in comparison to his reality.

After his time-travel mishap, Tom is catapulted into John Barren’s head in our 2016. He soon discovers that our reality could be better for him both professionally and personally. He no longer feels like a disappointment. Here he is a famous and gifted architect, with a loving and close-knit family and a sister (she’s new). His mother and girlfriend are both alive and well here, and aside from the lack of technological advancement, all is perfect.

But he is left with the nagging feeling that he should try to fix his broken timeline. Does he go back in time to try to fix his mistake (ushering in the techno-utopia), or does he accept that he could be happy here in our imperfect world? You’ll have to find out for yourself what Tom chooses, but suffice it to say, you probably shouldn’t read the ending in public. Bill and Ted’s fabulously succinct “Whoa!” is about all you will be capable of saying for a few minutes.

-Whitney Z.

cropped cover for All Our Wrong Todays

Feel like you’re living in a dystopian novel?

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Whitney Z. is a native Pittsburgher. She is currently a substitute Library Assistant who loves audiobooks, music and movies. She believes firmly that NASA made a mistake in demoting Pluto and would sincerely like for said decision to be reversed.

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