All Our Wrong Todays
December 18, 2018 10:04 AM - by Elan Mastai - Subscribe

You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we’d have? Tom Barren lives there, in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases. But then, via a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.
posted by DirtyOldTown (11 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can't believe I never posted this before. I was just telling a friend about this book.

It reads like what it is: a Hollywood screenwriter, for his first novel, goes full Vonnegut. With a bit of The Time Traveler's Wife in there as well.

It was a bit exposition-heavy, but it was ceaselessly fun.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:05 AM on December 18, 2018


I thought the title seemed familiar, so I checked out Goodreads and ... sure enough, I read (according to the Kindle) 22% of this before I gave up. Boy, did I hate it. Definitely a hard-avoid if you're tired of reading about shitty man-children.

Recommended for fans of Dark Matter and Ready Player One!
posted by uncleozzy at 12:33 PM on December 18, 2018 [1 favorite]


Definitely a hard-avoid if you're tired of reading about shitty man-children.

Recommended for fans of Dark Matter and Ready Player One!


That's not how it played to me at all. (And I thought RP1 was lame piffle.) I'm super-tired of man-baby junk, but, to borrow a line from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the situation's a lot more nuanced than that in this case.

Tom absolutely knows he's privileged and despises himself for it. He is fully and painfully aware that virtually all of the people around him are better than him in every way, particularly his female co-chrononaut. He further becomes aware that his alternate universe self's apparent "success" is likewise unearned. I may expand on this more when I'm not late for the train, but for now, let me at least say that.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:01 PM on December 18, 2018 [2 favorites]


Oh, I thought this one was very good. It's been quite a while since I read it but I remember really liking it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:09 PM on December 18, 2018


That's not how it played to me at all. (And I thought RP1 was lame piffle.) I'm super-tired of man-baby junk, but, to borrow a line from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the situation's a lot more nuanced than that in this case.

Sorry, maybe I was a bit harsh. But I did read a pretty good chunk before giving up, and even if there's a grand redemption arc, it's still set up by an awful lot of fair-to-middling writing about a protagonist who really rubbed me the wrong way.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:51 AM on December 19


I think it's interesting to look at Tom's journey in relationship to his privilege. In his world, it allows him to take progress for granted. Then, through his own myopia, he causes that progress to be lost. Perversely, this places him into a situation that is worse for the planet, but better for him personally. As an individual, all he has to do to come out ahead here is... nothing. For a while, he entertains the notion that he can undo the damage he has done. But in the end, he has to accept the damage he has done and has to accept that any version of progress still available needs his help.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:30 AM on December 19 [1 favorite]


That said, I'm still not about to argue the book is some sort of sneaky work of genius. It's fun, but it's still a bit screenwriter glib and it cribs pretty shamelessly from the Vonnegut stylebook. I heard of it via the Tournament of Books Long List. And while I'm glad I did, as I enjoyed it, I don't think they cheated it leaving it off the short list or anything.

My favorite bit was the weirdly well thought-out parts on the mechanics of time travel.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 6:21 AM on December 19


Of course one of the things science fiction writers also assumed in the world of the future was an inevitable nuclear war that cleared the way for the utopian future of flying cars and non bases. I mean seriously, nuclear war was ubiquitous in the writings of the 50s and 60s. So does this book have any of that element , or is it just a myopic view of future past?
posted by happyroach at 12:53 PM on December 19 [2 favorites]


In the book, a device called The Goettreider Engine finds a way to draw infinite, free engine from the motion of the earth. As a consequence, not only do concerns about energy/fuels go away, but energy itself becomes so cheap/free that rapid advances in nearly everything become possible, bringing on an age of peace and plenty for everyone.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:02 PM on December 19


I read this several months ago and really enjoyed it. I loved the world building and then the timey-wimey stuff. Alternate-now was well thought out. I was less interested in the main character's angst. Actually for ummm quite a few pages, I thought he was a she and I had to go back and start over from the beginning.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:44 PM on December 19


I can totally get why a person might groan at the idea of this protagonist.

But... if you're going to tell a story about a character realizing that progress cannot happen without the participation of the privileged, who makes more sense at the center than a privileged white male?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:19 AM on December 20


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