Back at the start of this year, One Day All This Will Be Yours featured on our list of 10 most anticipated sci-fi and fantasy novels for 2021. At the time I suggested that if you enjoyed 2019’s smash hit novella This Is How You Lose The Time War, then perhaps Adrian Tchaikovsky’s tale would be the book for you. I stand by that assertion now, but I’d like to add that if you didn’t like This Is How You Lose The Time War – and I’m guessing it was the language that put people off – then you should definitely also read Tchaikovsky’s book.
Alright, I’ll stop the comparisons there, because One Day All This Will Yours deserves to stand by itself. On the surface, it is a deceptively simple story; the last surviving time warrior of the Causality War has set himself up on a farm at the very end of time, and spends his days making sure that the war never happens again by catching wayward time travellers and stopping them from using their technology to incite another war.
I say a simple story, but obviously that is a relative term when it comes to science fiction, and especially time travel. I personally tend to enjoy time travel stories best if there is a light touch; I don’t need to know the details because I’ll never understand them anyway. Tchaikovsky, a giant of the science fiction genre, knows this well. The narrator explains just enough, and we are left to fill in the gaps as best they know how. Everyone is happy.
It also seems simple due to the minimal number of characters, the minimal number of settings, and the economical way in which our unnamed narrator tells his story. But again, it is a deceptive simplicity, because that leaves a lot of the room for the narrator to muse on all manner of things, from war and trauma to art and the nature of humanity, and everything in between.
The thing that makes this brilliant little novella so wonderful is the fun that Tchaikovsky has had with it, especially when the narrator is hopping through time, dancing on the fragments. It is like a wish list that I’m sure many people would make if they had the same ability. The narrator goes everywhere, and historical figures like Blackbeard and Achilles are there just because it is fun. There is a Les Misérables joke that should feel self-indulgent, but it just works because Tchaikovsky has earned it. My favourite part is when the narrator goes to see Two Gentlemen of Verona starring Shakespeare’s original clown, rather than the more popular Hamlet. It is such a hilariously hipster thing to do but it works because by then the narrator is completely endeared to us.
He is very funny; dry and completely self-aware. As he introduces us to his sunny little life on his sunny little farm he says:
How I love the rugged outdoors! Living out here with nothing but the fields and the animals and literally the best technological support that anyone ever invented.
He is tongue in cheek from page one, and totally honest with the readers. We know what he’s up to, and the things he does to protect his peace. At first, it doesn’t seem much of a problem. But as the story progresses, there is an underlying sense that this is a desperate and deeply traumatised man. He will do quite literally anything to stop the war every happening again, and just because he does it with a jolly tone and a matter-of-fact attitude, it doesn’t make it better.
But the truth is, by the end of the story, we are completely on his side. Tchaikovsky draws you in and he’s pulled the rug away before we even knew we were standing on one. One Day All This Will Be Yours is the most fun you can have at the end of the world.
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