Review

All Our Wrong Todays, Elan Mastai

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The process of preparing for writing a blog review of a book I have just read falls into one of two methods.  Some books urge me to grab my laptop and throw words onto the screen in a matter of minutes the moment I put it down.  Other books require me to carefully ponder their content and meaning before delicately and rhythmically forming a review over the space of an hour or two.  This book definitely fell into the latter category.

All Our Wrong Todays is a story, set in a technological utopia in 2016, about an unambitious man called Tom who travels in time to a crucial point in his world’s history an accidentally changes the course of events.  After leaving the past, Tom wakes up in a hospital bed in a backwards dystopian style version of 2016, one that looks a lot like the world we live in today.  And to make matters worse, Tom’s alternative family (who are very different to the one he knew from before) are insisting his name is John and that he’s an award-winning architect.  Tom sets off on a mission to reverse the problems he caused before and return to his previous life, only to hit a dilemma about what is right for humanity and himself.

This book is a story about humanity and human relationships disguised as a pseudo-political science fiction novel.  That’s not to say the science fiction element isn’t great because it is.  Every piece of fictional science in the story is explained in a way, by our narrator Tom, that makes it somewhat believable.  Mastai has thought up reasonably logical fixes for every potential plot hole that other stories about time travel suffer from.  As the narrator is not a scientist himself, his explanations of the utopian technology is simple enough to understand and imagine.

I particularly enjoyed the strong theme of familial and romantic relationships.  Tom’s relationships with his family and Penelope, the woman he loves, changes greatly as he enters the new version of 2016.  Although he feels the world is backwards, he begins to realise how the perfect world he came from wasn’t so perfect after all.  It was a technological utopia but he had very few people to love and be close to compared to our 2016.  It’s a story that illustrates how much human emotion can affect our actions and our views of the world.

I think the style of narration – a fictional memoir written by Tom himself – really adds to the story and allows the themes of family and love to shine through.  The narration feels quite meta and occasionally flaky at times but these are the unique side effects of such an alternative way of writing this kind of story.  Throughout the book, Tom insists he is not writing a novel and therefore doesn’t need to follow the typical writing styles and conventions of a novel.  This is especially poignant in the last few chapters, and is something I very much enjoyed following.

Overall I think this book was a fascinating read.  It kept me intrigued and entertained from the first page to the last.  It has been a week since I finished it and I haven’t really been able to stop thinking about it and what it means for our relationships and our views on the world.

 

Review

Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman

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I read this book in a couple of days last week and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It is a collection of Norse mythology, from Scandinavia centuries ago, retold by Neil Gaiman.  In order to write this book, he read translations of original Norse texts and other famous retellings.  In the disclaimer in the front of the book, Gaiman writes that they are simply his interpretations and he very much allows his own voice to come through in the stories.

I knew a little of Norse mythology before I read this book.  After watching the Marvel film about Thor, I became interested in the myths that influenced Marvel to create their versions of these characters.  It was then that I attempted to read the classic Norse text. Prose Edda, one of the texts Gaiman read in order to write his versions of the stories.  At the time, I struggled to read it as I had little background knowledge of the characters or events.  Norse Mythology has given me the knowledge to hopefully revisit Prose Edda as it details a number of Norse myths simply yet still beautifully written.

Inside this book are summaries of the main gods to remember, a glossary of names, objects and places – which is a very helpful reference point – and stories from the creation of the worlds to the destruction of them (Ragnarok).  Most stories follow the adventures of Odin, Thor and Loki although there are many different gods, giants and monsters throughout the book.  These stories tell of how the worlds were created and where the first gods came from; the origin of Thor’s hammer; why Odin only has one eye, and what that has got to do with his immense knowledge and wisdom; how earthquakes are caused by a chained up Loki; and how many times monsters have tried to marry Freya but failed.

I really enjoyed reading these stories and learning about a mythology I didn’t know much about.  I especially enjoyed learning about how different the real myths are from the Marvel comics version!  I would strongly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn the basics of Norse mythology is a way that is fun and exciting to read.