It’s always handy to have that friend who makes The Best Suggestions – whether they intend to or not! Earlier this week, Hannah asked me about a book; I hadn’t read it, but it reminded me I needed to place a hold at the library. I Googled the first title, alphabetically, on my To Be Read list, and the first Goodreads review that popped up compared it to the book Hannah had mentioned. So, clearly, I needed them both.
Conveniently, we got snow on Friday! I mean, nevermind that the roads were clear by Saturday afternoon, it was a great excuse to spend my weekend in bed reading. [And recovering from having no power due to the snow on Friday night…. but, hey, at least we were awake when it came back on in the middle of the night. Because our building’s fire alarm misfired for 20 minutes just before. Grrrs all around.]
I started with All Our Wrong Todaysby Elan Mastai. It got on my TBR list via a suggestion from theSkimm. The Goodreads review I first saw called it a mix of Back to the Future and Dark Matter and, well…. yes.
The narrator, Tom Barren, is a screwup of a man-child in an alternate 2016, floating about his existence with few ambitions or ties to anything. I enjoyed his scattered narration, run-on sentences, and paragraphs that lasted for pages, especially after he described books in his reality. You see, in Tom’s world, people don’t regularly read books as we know them, because in their technologically-advanced and entertainment-centered world, storytelling is tailored to a reader’s specified preferences, so “sitting down to page through a novel that’s not even intended to be about the secret box inside your mind – why would anyone want to do that for, like, fun?”
I can definitely understand why some readers may not be charmed by Tom and or his clunky narrative, and there are some liberties taken in a lazy speculative fiction kind of way, but, overall, it was a fun take on the what-ifs around alternate time lines.
If you’re looking for a much more serious take on the subject – Dark Matterby Blake Crouch may be more your speed. Much like Tom Barren, Jason Dessen is an everyman whose life is suddenly thrown into a tempest of what-ifs. But where many of Tom’s troubles were his own fault, Jason is a much more sympathetic character…. if a little slow on the uptake. Or maybe as an atomic physicist and professor at a small college he just reads fewer sci-fi novels. Or watches fewer Nicholas Cage movies.
Dark Matter pulls you along its turns in a narrowing spiral, ever more quickly, and is a fairly satisfactory way to waste a few hours on a melty Sunday.
Coincidentally, this was today’s Poem-a-Day from poets.org:
Two afternoons spent reading two different takes on alternate realities with the same takeaway: is there anything more terrifying than…. yourself?
Bonus moment of snow NC zen ’til we meet again.