Tom Barren is the son of a "genius" scientist in an alternate version of Earth in the year 2016. In Tom's world, all the technical marvels from our science fiction stories actually happen. Flying cars, robots that manufacture a new outfit for you every day depending on your current mood, teleportation, space travel, all of it. It's all made possible by an invention called the Goettreider Engine that was created in the year 1965 which allowed for limitless, clean energy to be created using the rotation of the Earth. Tom's father is the first to invent time travel in the year 2016 and, due to a series of unfortunate events, Tom is going to be the first person to ever go back in time. The story follows Tom a time-travel mishap leads him to getting stuck in our 2016. To him our world seems like a dystopia wasteland. How on Earth can humans function having to guess at wether or not the avacado they are about to cut in to is ripe?? Clothes made from animal skins and plat fibers? Barbaric! But unlike the word he came from, here he has a purpose. A loving family, a possible love interest, maybe even a future. Tom must decide if he will try to fix the past and restore the timeline to what it "should" be, or if this life is what was meant to be.
This. Dang. Book! You guys, this book was a whirlwind of emotions for me. I started off loving the main character (and the narrator as I did the audiobook for this one. I'll get to him in a minute). That's what really got me hooked. He breaks the third wall quite often but not in a way that is terribly cliche or overdone. His self-depicting nature is endearing and I was rooting for him through his entire journey. All the characters in this novel are very fleshed out and three-dimensional. They have realistic thoughts and feelings and even minor characters with little to do with the plot really grabbed me because of the genuine way that Tom described them and the roles they played in his life. The audiobook was narrated by the author, Elan Mastai, which I loved! Of course he voiced Tom perfectly. If you get a chance, I would definitely recommend you listen to at least the first 10 or 15 chapters in audiobook format. 5 stars for narration of the audiobook!
The world-building of this novel was exquisite! I am a sci-fi junkie to begin with so an alternate reality that is a techno utopia? Count me in! There are essentially 3 points in time on Earth (in the United States) that we spend most of the story in: 2016 in techno-utopia, 1965 pretty much as we know it, and our current 2016. Mastai does a great job explaining the world setup without spending an exorbitant amount of time on minor details and really cuts to the good stuff. Another thing I commend Mastai for is the simplicity of his explanations of very complex theories and functionality of the mechanics of time travel, energy creation, and other scientific processes. Through the perspective of our main character who comes right out and says "I am not a genius," We learn how the mechanic of the world work in a really simplified manner. The wording and language used is not over complicated and we really are left to focus more on how these changes in space and time are effecting Tom's life and choices rather than getting too hung up on how it all works. The effects of time travel on Tom's brain and psyche on the other hand was a little difficult to wrap my head around (especially towards the end) and there were several times I had to read pages a couple times to follow what was happening in Tom's head. There are some moments (again towards the end) that get very philosophical that kind of slowed down the story for me a bit and messed up the pacing for me. That was really my only complaint was the pacing of the last quarter of the story. But I'm glad I stuck with it because man did this story make me think and feel some things!