Review of an ARC provided by the wonderful NetGalley

Imagine you live in a world of nearly infinite technological possibilities. Imagine you are the son of a man so smart that he has created a way to literally travel through time for tourism purposes. Imagine you do not possess your father’s intellectual capacity, but reckon you can probably wing this time-travel stuff, right? What’s the worst that can happen? Thanks to his ineptitude, Tom Barren’s going to find out exactly how bad things can get. For everyone. 

Tom Barren lives in 2016. Only it’s a very different 2016 from the one we know; more like The Jetsons than The Simpsons. Flying cars, astronaut-style food, and actual time travel. In Tom’s reality, in 1965, Lionel Goettreider found a way to produce unlimited, clean energy for the entire planet, therefore creating an utopian society, where there is very little need for anyone to be dissatisfied. However, as a result, great works of art, literature, and music that came as a result of disenfranchisement have never existed as far as Tom is aware.

Until Tom, as part of his father’s first foray into time travel, monumentally messes up, and changes his life completely, sending himself hurtling into a crazy alternate reality. Tom must navigate his way through this new timeline, track down Goettreider, and somehow fix this potentially world-ending screw-up. 

I won’t play it down; I absolutely loved this book. The narration is incredibly engaging; I really enjoyed the uncertain, flawed character of Tom. Elan Mastai has done a great job in keeping the prose conversational, but still containing sufficient detail to paint incredibly vivid mental pictures. 

The story itself is incredibly entertaining. Given the futuristic, dystopian setting, and the infinitely appealing central character, passing comparisons to Ready Player One are inevitable. But AOWT is strong enough to stand on its own. The sense of adventure leaves the reader breathless at points, and I was genuinely cheering Tom on throughout the book. I really cared about this character. 

It’s no surprise that Mastai is a screenwriter, as the book has an epic, cinematic feel to it. And I’m thrilled to learn that Paramount have already acquired the movie rights. However, I’m glad I didn’t check Mastai’s IMDB page before reading this book, as it would appear he is responsible for the screenplay of “the worst film ever“.

But I digress. I don’t want to give away too many details about this book because so much goes on, and the surprises get more and more compelling as the book progresses. It’s just so entertaining. My search for a sci-fi novel as exciting as Ready Player One has temporarily paused, at least in this reality. 

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