Sci-Fi For Everybody: Love, Jokes, and Time Travel

Whenever I read a novel about time travel it makes me ask the big questions: Who Am I? When Am I? How Am I? Should I Even Be Here?? Basically the same questions that run through my head at a networking event.

Does it count as networking if you hide in the bathroom the whole time?

I recently finished Elan Mastai’s “All Our Wrong Todays”, a quirky and fast-paced novel that ponders the age-old dilemma of how time travelers (called chrononauts in the book) can severely alter the course of history by entering a space and time in which they do not belong. Tom Barren lives in 2016, but not our 2016. His version of the present-day surpasses our wildest dreams of a future utopia. There is limitless energy, there is peace, there are hovercrafts. Think “The Jetsons” and you’ve got it.

However, humans are still human in Tom’s 2016 and, through a series of unfortunate events, Tom finds himself recklessly hurtling into the past on the first-ever time traveling voyage. Beamed backwards to a crucial fork in the historical road, Tom becomes not so much an invisible observer as a bumbling participant. When he’s automatically transported back to the present, he doesn’t find what he left behind. Instead, he’s now in our 2016 — to him, a messy, primitive, and confounding dystopia (though, to be fair, lots of people who haven’t ever been to an alternate timeline felt that way about 2016 too).

The rest of the book explores how Tom can set history right, or if he even should. Sure, utopia is great and all, but there are things in this other version of the world that make Tom hesitant to let go. And how do we ever know for sure which today is the “right” today? “All Our Wrong Todays” is super fun and I loved Mastai’s cheeky, winking writing style. And BONUS! there’s actually a lot of heart to this book, as well as a touching love story. So you get your funny and your tears all in one read. Mastai cleverly weaves the concept of time travel together with more domestic questions of regret, personality, and family that make you think on a mind-bending and a deeply personal level all at the same time (or, perhaps, different versions of the same time?). I love when a book is entertaining, but still makes me think. This could definitely be great for anyone — boy, girl, life form from another dimension — they’ll all enjoy it!

Other Time-Related Recommends:

“A Tale for the Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki

“Dark Matter” by Blake Crouch