I’m a sucker for certain story types and time travel is one of them. The plots in time travel stories are almost always of the “pull one loose thread and the whole thing unravels” variety, with the science ranging from sounding possible to being completely silly.
All Our Wrong Todays is a sometimes odd combination of extremes, with its tone shifting from being very light to very dark and back again. And again. The science is presented with a veneer of plausibility, even as the framing device (which in this case is an actual device, a kind of perpetual motion machine that produces endless free energy) seems wildly unlikely.
But this is ultimately more a story about a person–in this case a shiftless 30-something named Tom Barren–coming to grips with who he is and what’s important to him than it is an action-packed time travel adventure.
Though there is action. And time travel adventure.
Told from a first person perspective, author Elan Mastai does an almost too-convincing job presenting Tom as an irredeemable loser. A nice guy, sure, but also an unambitious, inept, unthinking clod. Since it’s Tom himself describing these qualities, the self-loathing threatens to smother the reader. At one point I nearly put the book aside. I stuck with it, though, and things pick up as Tom is forced out of his somnolent existence after he screws up time in a big way. As in many time travel stories, messing up timelines is pretty easy while fixing them proves much trickier.
For a first novel, Mastai has done a terrific job crafting an entertaining yarn. Yes, the science is wonky but watching the different players interact across different timelines–including Tom engaging in an epic internal battle with his other selves–is worth the ride.