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All Our Wrong Todays: 10/31/17
All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai is set in "present day, present time" as Serial Experiments Lain would put it. But it's written from the perspective of a character who knows a better present and due to his lazy ass participation in time travel as screwed the pooch. No — he wasn't responsible for Trump (because he's Canadian) — but he is responsible for the serious lack of flying cars and other cool shit the 1950s promised.
Tom Barren is the son of the man who invented the time machine. He comes from a world with infinite energy thanks to Göttreider Engine — a machine first turned on in 1963 in San Francisco. The machine's ever present hum has also left a traceable set of breadcrumbs, allowing for time travel which includes not only travel through time, but space. You can see where this is going. It's quantum physics 101.
At it's most basic, All Our Wrong Todays is a fun time travel book. It's and entertaining addition to books like Meanwhile by Jason Shiga and The Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell, or The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold.
But — it's also in it's own way, a road narrative, and one that is still causing me to rethink, or rather, refine how I think about the different tropes and characters. Early on, as Tom is explaining how he broke the universe, he says: "Every person you meet introduces the accident of that person to you. What can go right and what can go wrong. There is no intimacy without consequence."
Create a car, create car crashes. Create plane, create plane crashes. It's that inevitable opposition that stands in sharp relief — a further way of understanding the trope wheel of the road narrative. Whether it's an accident or an invention is a matter of perspective.
Toronto as a destination goes from utopia, to a tourist destination, to a dystopia, to a realistic urban representation.
Though Tom presents our 2016 as his dystopia, as he learns more about time travel and tries to fix his mistake, he grows comfortable with his situation, thus allowing him to accept that his journey is over. His trip starts in a utopian Toronto, and while he ends up back in Toronto, it's not the highly advanced, mostly automated one that he left. It's not the family he left either but it is a family, one that loves him and is willing to work with him to make a new, better future — not an exact replica of what he left, but a variation on themes.