...[a] dazzling and complex novel ... Given the chance to go back in time to the same spot, Barren causes yet another disruption, unleashing a much darker world, and the ingenuous plot circles and loops across these versions of reality. It is a tale told by an idiot, of sorts. Affable and witty, Barren has just enough scientific knowledge to be charmingly dangerous ... reminiscent of Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds. Mastai has that same penchant for exuberant plot, a quick dash of character and fearlessly funny storytelling ... In the alternative reality of our own day when many long for the chance to turn back time, some solace might be found in the masochistic pleasures of this trippy and ultimately touching novel.
...that’s the beauty of All Our Wrong Todays. It’s a timeless, if mind-bending, story about the journeys we take, populated by friends, family, lovers and others, that show us who we might be, could be — and maybe never should be — that eventually leads us to who we are. Only in Tom’s world, he has an opportunity nobody in our world is ever offered. He gets to choose. He gets to decide which version of himself, his family, his friends, his time and reality he prefers — a decision that not only impacts his life but the lives of billions of others born and unborn.
It's this kind of informal, self-referential writing that permeates the pages of All Our Wrong Todays, where our narrator constantly butts up against the line separating charming from annoying ... though Tom is sure he's a time traveler, Mastai does a wonderful job of playing with the idea that Tom's previous life was all just a dream or possibly a psychotic break ... All Our Wrong Todays isn't just a story about some schmuck screwing up the future. It's a study in mental health and a discourse on obsession and family dynamics. It's even a multiverse trans-timeline love story. And it's fun ... There are few surprises in Mastai's story, but it's not without tension, and readers shouldn't be scared of the science behind Tom's travels — Mastai does a wonderful job of keeping it simple.
Mr. Mastai’s story is a long riff on the time paradoxes lovingly explored in previous sci-fi. It’s also underpinned by love triangles, one of them converted by time paradoxes into a quadrangle, or perhaps (they’re complicated) a double triangle ... Bafflement is kept at bay by the fact that Mr. Mastai’s model, openly acknowledged, is Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, with its short chapters and snappy punchlines. He has caught the tone very well: a narrative voice at once wise and naïve, indignant and resigned, flip and deeply sad.
All Our Wrong Todays reveals how Barren, the underachieving son-of-a-genius, travels in time back to 1965, accidentally alters history, and winds up in our own comparatively backward reality. The remainder of the book entertainingly mixes thrills and humor as our protagonist attempts to set things right — or, the very least, not make them worse — while adjusting to a world where windows 'don’t do anything cool.'”
Mastai’s intricate plot takes the wrung-out time travel ruse to new territory. A genre-hopping, laugh-out-loud sci-fi love story, All Our Wrong Todays at its heart is a deceptively profound exploration of what makes a good life and why our species seems hell-bent on self-annihilation. Clever and entertaining, it explores the small differences that divide what we are from what we could be and what we want to be.
Mastai mainly relies on two storytelling techniques: immersive world-building and Tom Barren’s narration. The former works with dazzling results, while the latter is hit or miss ... Mastai does this over and over again—he sets up fascinating puzzles, and we watch his characters reason out of them (or sometimes, crash through them) ... The only hiccup to this page-turner is Tom himself. While his first-person narration is engaging and snappy, it is also sometimes self-indulgent...It’s tough to remain empathetic to a character who knows he is bullshitting, knows his actions have consequences, and continues with his bad behavior ... For this reason All Our Wrong Todays never quite landed an emotional punch for me.
Tom's physicist father complains that most time-travel stories get it wrong. I wonder: What might Stephen Hawking think of Mastai's time-travel science? What would Vonnegut think? Ah, but there are plenty of nuances that distinguish Mastai's story from various time-travel clichés. And this novel, for which Mastai's publisher Dutton reportedly paid $1.25 million, is witty, thoughtful and entertaining. It ought to sell well.