Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, by Gabrielle Zevin

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pixels and Passions: A Journey On The Road to Nowhere-In-Particular Through Three Decades

Maybe I’ve grown complacent: I love a good, strong plot; a linear story, told in chronological order. Along comes a book, its plot basically consisting of “30 years in the life of Sadie, Sam and Marx”; told calmly, only partly linearly by an omniscient narrator who retroactively fills gaps.

And: I am not a gamer and this is a novel about the creation of video games.

On the other hand, just like the protagonists (and the author), I’m from generation X. I’ve played the games Sadie, Sam and Marx would have played. I may never have been a gamer but I’ve been a lifelong admirer of Richard “Lord British” Garriott (a legend of game design) whose immortal claim to fame is his involvement in the creation of the “Ultima” series of games and who founded “Origin Systems, Inc.”. Their slogan was “We Create Worlds” – and that’s what they did.

Gabrielle Zevin did, too: In “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” she creates a world that feels vibrant and alive. Zevin knows her characters intimately – their joy, pain, love. She possesses the enviable ability to bring to life the entire emotional “landscape” and the lived reality of her characters. Many passages have deeply moved me, others were light and clever, enjoyable and relatable.

»She had, he thought, one of the world’s great laughs. The kind of laugh where a person didn’t feel that he was being laughed at. The kind of laugh that was an invitation: I cordially invite you to join in this matter that I find amusing.«

I couldn’t help but fall in love with Sam, Sadie and Marx because in their beautiful imperfection they always felt authentic and true to life. There were points during the story at which I loathed each of them and yet couldn’t help but hope for them getting better or redemption or whatever else they needed.

The extensive and intensive “world building” that Zevin achieves effortlessly does, however, come at a cost: The narrative style is leisurely and unhurried. At times, passages seemed to drag, but ultimately everything came together to form a magnificent and unique total work of art, which has given me a lot.

In her “Notes and Acknowledgments” at the end, Zevin writes that “»Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a novel about work […] [and] […] equally about love.« – and, to me, she triumphantly succeeds at that. What she leaves out is, that it’s also about storytelling itself: Storytelling should not be rushed, it cannot be forced; it takes time, dedication, work and love.

The result is a novel that feels long and epic and accomplishes to narrate the feelings of at least part of a generation – the Zeitgeist – like few novels before. At times I rolled my eyes and was annoyed while at other times I felt almost overwhelmed by emotions.

»She had once read in a book about consciousness that over the years, the human brain makes an AI version of your loved ones. The brain collects data, and within your brain, you host a virtual version of that person. Upon the person’s death, your brain still believes the virtual person exists, because, in a sense, the person still does. After a while, though, the memory fades, and each year, you are left with an increasingly diminished version of the AI you had made when the person was alive.«

After having read many reviews I can imagine that this will remain a divisive novel: Many, like myself, can’t help but love it. Others will loathe it or be left irritated. It is the long road to nowhere in particular. I can understand all reactions to it.

When I started writing this, I wasn’t sure what my conclusion would be but despite some lengths, etc. I cannot ignore how strongly this novel appealed to me personally: Five stars out of five.

And now I’m going to play “Donkey Kong” on original era hardware.

Ceterum censeo Putin esse delendam

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