Saturday 2 March 2019

All Our Wrong Todays - review

All Our Wrong Todays 
Elan Mastai 

Published 2017 by Dutton

The premise grabbed me immediately.  In 1965, a scientist unveils a gizmo that provides unlimited, free, clean power.  And in a reasonable portable form, if desired.  As a result, the sci-fi visions of the 21st century hoped for came true.  Exploring the solar system, towering sleek buildings, flying cars, and more and etc.  

In 2015, our hero is a 30-something aimless quasi-loser of a guy.  His father is a genius intent on inventing time travel. (This is all on the back cover blurb, so I'm not spoiling anything, per se).  The nub of things is that our hero travels in time, mucks things up and creates the world you and I see outside our window right now.  Our hero considers this essentially a primitive dystopia and wants to correct things.

And the story continues.  And drags.  And slogs.  And generally is like carrying a mattress up a flight of stairs.  Each landing is a chance to catch your breath and regain your resolve.  In less metaphorical terms, something actually interesting happens in the story to regenerate enthusiasm.  Then it’s back to slogging.

What drove me cuckoo for cocoa puffs was the inane repetition.  A clip from the book by way of one example:

"–you should be punished for what you did.  You're not allowed to be happy.  Everything you touch will turn to ash.  You must be held accountable.  Everyone you love will be swarmed by darkness."

Okay!  I get it!  There’s repetition for emphasis, but this is repetition ad nauseam for the sole reason, I strongly suspect, to pad out the page count. These "lists" are ubiquitous in the book.  It gave me the unpleasant dream feeling of "three steps forward, two steps back".  Running in place without getting anywhere.

Beyond the thesaurus regurgitating for emotional states, the hero explains the mechanism/method of his father's time machine at least three complete times.  

When the book stops and a chapter is supplies us with “summary of the book so far”, I began to wonder if the novel had been serialized with instalments in its early days.  That might excuse some of the repetition, but certainly not excuse the sloppy editing that didn’t clean things up when making a standalone book.  But then a second Summary chapter happens, only this time with a simpering coy wink from the hero-journal writer that he was doing this summary stuff on purpose.

Yeah, it’s all about padding the page count.  There are too many soft-headed readers out there in modern times who think the only value in a book is measured in literal bulk.

The base idea and the bones of the book are fascinating.  Too bad the flesh covering those bones is flabby and feeble.

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