Author: Adrian Tchaikovsky
Title: One Day All This Will Be Yours
After a couple of disappointing books by Tchaikovsky I approached this novella with certain trepidation. After all, one can become too thinly spread, “sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread,” even without One Ring (unless you want to confess, Mr Tchaikovsky?) I needn’t have worried, tough – this novella is short and sharp and scathing, with long pointed teeth and unrelenting snarkiness that brings to mind the best that stand-up comedy has to offer.
And this novella is indeed written very much in the style of stand-up comedy, with the protagonist wound up to the extreme, never shutting up, venting his anger and misanthropy in an unceasing torrent of words. It’s funny, it’s rabid, it’s sarcastic – but most of all, it’s to the point. You see, in Causality Wars the unnamed protagonist is the veteran of the humanity – and history – ceased to exist. With the onset of time travel rewriting the past became the favorite pastime of governments and agencies, and all the innumerable, contradictory changes to the history carried out by time soldiers resulted in shattering the past and erasing the present. It was still salvageable, more or less – until Causality bombs destroyed the substance of time. And so now, at the end of times, in the one stable point of a glorious indeterminate amount of time, our protagonist treasure hunts the sharp shards of the past, gathering farming equipment, growing veggies and killing random time travellers who inexorably land in his garden, in the farthest possible future. Until travellers from the actual, future, future turn up on his porch and call him Gramps. The gall! Gramps is not happy; he’s a nasty mean old geezer and wants to stay this way forever, so obviously the only thoughts he spared for his bride-to-be are how to most efficiently kill her before they can produce any of that horrible offspring.
Yes, don’t expect this novella to be scientifically plausible. It’s not. It’s a totally absurd, tongue-in-cheek mishmash of the most popular time travel tropes, juggled with admirable deftness and self-awareness by the angry old man in the center of the story. Time travel serves here only as a literary vehicle for funny and sharp critique of our human foibles and vices and prejudices. And if we can get an adorable, feathered, man-eating dinosaur as a bonus, all the better.
Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s Tchaikovsky, maybe it’s just the Zeitgeist of our times – but this short novella is also quite openly political, particularly at the end. And while in Bear Head Tchaikovsky stooped to pick the low hanging fruit of criticizing right wing populism and Trump in particular, rushing his (however valid) message to the ultimate detriment of the novel’s quality, here he does something requiring a bit more artistry and forethought: he criticizes, in a meaningful, sneaky, caustic way, the whole no-quarter, my-right-is-the-only-right approach so prevalent in our times. Tchaikovsky pulls no punches in his descriptions of a populist left wing “unithink” utopia, in which all discordant, disagreeing, or simply different thoughts are forcefully eradicated to create an eternally harmonious world without worry. We do know that approach, unfortunately, reminiscent (for those old enough) of both witch hunts and the Communist ideas of “conscientious practice” of self-criticism. Wrapped in layers of tweeness and radiantly false smiles, seemingly bumbling and bubbling with graceless good intentions and inexhaustible enthusiasm, the future Utopians from One Day All This Will Be Yours turn out to be at least as ruthless, remorseless, callous and selfish as their desperate militant forebears responsible for the Causality bombs. True, their very survival is at stake, and they’re obviously going to stop at nothing to ensure it. (You better not look for logic in Tchaikovsky’s novella, because you’ll be sorely disappointed – the plot here is, after all, subordinate to the message.) And while Tchaikovsky keeps it all as funny and fluffy and sharp-toothed as the protagonist’s pet allosaur Miffly, the chilling thought remains: there are many and varied forms of intolerance and tribalism, of conformity and unanimity forced by ultimately malevolent – even if well-intentioned – measures. Yes, our protagonist is a ruthless homicidal maniac, hell-bent on keeping the status quo which is beneficial only for him – and his stand-up comedy schtick only underscores his egoistic feelings of entitlement. And yet we still find ourselves rooting for him, the venerated Founder who doesn’t want to shut up and play his allotted role, even while we keep asking ourselves questions about the limits of duty and freedom.
I only have one criticism to offer, though it is twofold: the ending feels truncated and rushed; while it still delivers the payoff, it feels much more suitable to a short story than what in good (or bad, depending on your point of view) old days would’ve been a full-length novel. As for the novella itself, it never feels boring or redundant (ah, well, maybe a little, in places 😉) but I still felt it could’ve been stronger and punchier if it were shortened. Either way, though, One Day All This Will Be Yours is an observant, cutting piece of satire, which has somewhat restored my battered trust in Tchaikovsky 😉.
I have received a copy of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks.