Book Reviews

Elan Mastai – All Our Wrong Todays

A side note before we start: this is not my normal kind of review. I have just completed my second year Journalism module wherein I had to write two reviews for two different publications. For this I wrote a review of Elan Mastai’s “All Our Wrong Todays” as if it were to be published for the Guardian. Rather than having to reread and write my opinions again, I thought I would share this piece with you as it was submitted. Also – this piece did receive a solid first. 

Fiction/All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai – A new take on time travel and the human experience

The first work from Elan Mastai, screenwriter of 15 years, brings a new modern twist to the classical love story.

In our turbulent economic and political climate, the idea of time travel might be appealing: to go back and rectify any of our mistakes, be that as simple as ordering from a more reputable pizza place or voting differently. Elan Mastai’s debut All Our Wrong Todays is a science fiction novel dealing with the troubles of a young boy and a time machine.

Tom Barren is from the universe we’re meant to have. The 2016 people had imagined in the 1950s, with flying cars and always ripe avocados. He knows this to be the perfect world, where everything is automated and the only thing you have to pay for is your entertainment. Yet Tom is struggling to find his place in this utopian universe. After his world is turned upside down by the love of his life, Penelope, he makes a rash decision involving time travel.

Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, which seems all too much like a dystopian wasteland. Here he finds versions of his family and Penelope, but they are not as he knew them. This novel focuses on choice and the future of humanity, as Tom realises only one version of these people can exist, and he’s the one who has to choose.

Mastai has brought his background in screenwriting to this novel, with detailed descriptions and an engaging protagonist. It feels as if Tom is writing this book himself. He even tries to write in the third person but says “I can’t write like this. It’s fake. It’s safe.” There’s a real sense of danger throughout from Mastai’s pacing, as the story introduces us to more and more that could kill someone in this perceived utopia and time travel. For example, teleporting to the right a few inches more than you had intended could see you imbedded in a wall and dead.

At times the language can seem a little overwhelming, with intense discussions about scientific discoveries and the way the time travel or teleportation works in this universe, which could put readers off. However, these moments are important for enhancing the world from that Tom has come from as “everybody works at a lab”. With this information, Tom seems like an authority on the subject which makes us warm to him as the protagonist.

All Our Wrong Todays is a novel that deals with issues of changing relationships, with a background of an ever changing world, crafted by an experienced screenwriter. This book requires an imaginative mind and willingness to look at our own society, through Mastai’s engaging and compelling plot.

  • All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai is published by Michael Joseph (£14.99). To order a copy for £12.74 go tobookshop.theguardian.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of £1.99
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