All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

All Our Wrong Todays is Elan Mastai’s debut novel. A screenwriter by trade (the 2013 indie What If, starring Daniel Radcliffe, was written by him), Mastai’s first novel ambitiously adapts the film genre of indie rom-com into book-form, but with a sci-fi twist.

Tom Barren lives in an alternate version of 2016 – the version that ‘we were supposed to have’ – basically the utopian future theorised in the 1950s and depicted in The Jetsons. There is no war or inequality, people drive hover-cars and holiday on the moon, and the planet is in tip-top environmental shape. That is, until Tom screws everything up.

As he continually reminds us throughout the first half of the novel, he’s a total idiot and a disappointment in his genius-physicist-father’s eyes, so it’s no surprise when he tampers with the launch of his dad’s new time machine, and alters the course of history. He finds himself in a new 2016 – our 2016 – a reality where poverty and pollution very much exist, but, paradoxically, Tom’s personal life is exponentially better. Mastai envisions contemporary society as an experiment gone wrong – the present timeline is the dystopia.

There is a lot going on in this novel and sometimes it’s difficult to keep track, especially when it comes to Tom’s over-explanation of technology, time-travel and his alternate personalities. However, Tom’s earnest narration and the romantic plot involving a sexy bookstore owner (who was, in the utopian version of 2016, an ambitious astronaut) means that, when the time comes for Tom to (inevitably) step-up and save the world, you find yourself rooting for him.

Ambitious in scope, All Our Wrong Todays attempts to be a lot of things all at once; if the idea of 500 Days of Summer meets The Terminator piques your interest, then this novel is for you.

Kelsey Oldham works as a bookseller at Readings Hawthorn.