This week, I’m reviewing the new novella from the prolific and multiple award-winning Adrian Tchaikovsky, One Day All This Will Be Yours. This humorous take on time travel is published by Solaris, and this fair and unbiased review was conducted with gratitude for the free electronic copy of the book which I received from them.
This review contains an affiliate link to Bookshop.org, which will earn me a commission if used, and will help to support independent bookshops.
Living an idyllic yet solitary life on the ever-expanding fringe of the farthest point in the future, our unnamed narrator is the last survivor of the causality war. He polices his domain with technology gathered from various timelines, ensuring that any travellers who chance upon the last surviving piece of undamaged time don’t make it back to when they came from – and that their era has its course corrected so that nobody works out time travel in the first place. He will stop at nothing in order to prevent the future becoming the same shattered mess as the past – and that includes feeding time travelling trespassers to his pet allosaurus, Miffly.
In case you hadn’t guessed, One Day All This Will Be Yours falls very firmly in the camp of comedic science fiction. Comedy in literature can be a difficult thing to get right; for every joke that lands, there’s often another that falls completely flat. What might have one reader clutching their sides might leave another absolutely cold. It’s hard to believe that the latter might be the case here though, as One Day All This Will Be Yours maintains a near constant stream of witticisms that’s sure to elicit smiles and snorts of laughter from even the most stony-faced readers.
Our narrator is a soldier, who was one of many given a time machine and sent off to alter history in the name of whichever side he was supposed to be on. Unsurprisingly, this went spectacularly badly, resulting in the complete and utter shattering of causality. History exists in scattered and often parallel chunks, some parts of the timeline mere slivers just a few seconds long. The term Tchaikovsky coins to describe this situation, incidentally, is “postepochalypse,” which is an utterly wonderful piece of word-making.
Whilst the explanation behind these events makes up a fair chunk of this novella, they’re actually fairly simple to wrap your head around. Essentially, it’s almost as if the narrator exists in a kind of videogame level select screen, able to pick different bits of history to visit in which he can mess about doing whatever he likes, all without worrying what effect it will have on the timeline. Playfulness is something of a theme here, in fact, not just in terms of the kind of trouble a very bored guy at the end of time chooses to get into, but also in the way he speaks of his experiences. There’s a jaded cynicism to his tone, but it never strays into misery or self-pity. His slightly detached approach when it comes to offing his rival time travellers gives everything a gleefully dark feeling, practically straying into black comedy at times. That’s nothing compared to the Tom and Jerry style arms race he gets into with one particularly persistent interloper though, but to say more would be to spoil some truly spectacular gags.
Because gags there are, in spades. Whether it’s a darkly humorous aside, some witty dialogue, or one of the many vividly described visual spectacles, One Day All This Will Be Yours is consistently funny. It’s the kind of book that your family will scowl at you for reading, because you’ll keep blurting out laughs over every other page. The novella format perhaps helps when it comes to sustaining the comedy, as the humour doesn’t have time to outstay its welcome, but truthfully, it could easily stand to be longer; those moments that are more serious are as well-crafted as the more light hearted ones, and there’s certainly enough in the way of plot to keep you guessing. The narrator is also extremely likeable, with his misanthropic world view and cartoonishly violent approach to problem solving a constant source of amusement. They do say that the best things come in small packages though, and this compact read is certainly proof of that.
One Day All This Will Be Yours is a joy from start to finish; a concentrated hit of hilarity, full of wry humour and underpinned by an entertaining and original approach to a time travel narrative. The future might be bleak, but in Adrian Tchaikovsky’s hands it’s also very, very funny.
One Day All This Will Be Yours is published by Solaris, and will be available on the 4th of March in the UK. You can order a copy through this affiliate link.