Title: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: General Fiction
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is the Sunday Times bestseller by Gabrielle Zevin that’s not a romance but is about love, according to the blurb.
The book was selected to be my book club read at Blue Sheep Books, although I had seen it doing the rounds on Instagram and social media.
I do normally open my posts with a summary in my own words of the first couple of chapters of this book but it is a very difficult book to summarise and is unlike anything I’ve ever read before and I think the blurb on the back explains it best.
“When Sam catches sight of Sadie at a crowded train station one winter morning he is catapulted back to the brief time they spent playing together as children. Their unique spark is instantly reignited. What comes next is a story of friendship and rivalry, betrayal and tragedy, perfect worlds and imperfect ones. And, ultimately, our need to connect: to be loved and to love”.
The book explores Sam and Sadie’s relationship across the years in a very non-linear way from their time as children in hospital to when they bump into each other at MIT as students and decide to work together to create a videogame, Ichigo and over the years their friendship is challenged and put to the test in a variety of different ways.
As I have mentioned already, this book is nothing like anything I’ve ever read before which for me has both positive and negative impacts on how I enjoyed this book.
I will start with the positives first and I think the first one is the book is very original and I like some of the interesting stylistic choices made throughout the book. For example, there is one chapter which takes places entirely within a game world and uses an online chat and I like how Zevin uses these modern technological advancements to progress her story in a way that is quite unique and dynamic.
The book also makes a wealth of references to gaming and gaming culture. Zevin mentions in the acknowledgements how her parents worked in computers and it is clear she both has a lot of knowledge of the gaming industry and has done a lot of research. I was born in the mid-90s and the book makes references to many of the videogames I remember from my childhood and growing up and there also references to classic 80s videogames and franchises. I have written on this blog some posts expressing my love of gaming and in particular my favourite franchise, Tomb Raider (see here, here and here for some examples) but seeing these references was definitely lovely from a nostalgic point of view.
I also do like reading about the behind the scenes of game production and hearing about stories of long hours and burnout which is alluded too within this story when the characters are making Ichigo which definitely showed the book had been well researched.
Also the chapter called “the NPC” is probably one of the most beautifully poignant chapters I’ve read in a long time and did make me feel very emotional by the end. For non-gamers an NPC is a non-playable character or background character in a videogame, they are usually called this as they have a very minimal presence in the story. Whilst NPC is used as a jibe in the book it takes on a whole new meaning in this chapter.
However I do have quite a few things which I didn’t quite enjoy and made it hard for me to get into. I didn’t particularly like the characters of Sam and Sadie and whilst I did find the book entertaining whilst I was reading it, it didn’t hook me enough for me to want to know what happens next and once I put it down I found it quite hard to get back into again.
At my book club meet a few people also did feel the same way that particularly at the beginning the characters lives are glossed over quite a lot and it’s only later on that the books takes the time to explore the characters properly and it is here where the book does improve (around the section with the chapter in the game world is probably my favourite part of the book).
The book does also have a lot of commentary on social and political issues. First of all, on a surface level many of the issues raised in the book are those deemed “woke” by the right-wing media e.g. sexism, homophobia, gender identity, racism, transphobia, gun violence which some people might be put off by just because of their political stance.
Whilst I do like books which have social awareness I did have the overwhelmingly feeling the book was trying too hard with these issues and whilst certain issues do come across more successfully than others in the vast amount of ground Zevin wants to cover gave me the feeling some of the issues were just included for the sake of being included.
For example, Zevin mentions Sam is bisexual and has had boy lovers in the past, yet not a single male romantic partner is introduced. Also the two gay game developers, Anthony and Simon seem to only really be here to service the plot and not much else.
Also whilst Sadie and Sam do make Ichigo a non-binary character, the game publishers tell them to make him a boy, they do this and then the issue isn’t really mentioned again.
Ultimately it feels as though the book is aware of these issues and is thematically influenced by them but doesn’t really know how to make all of them impact the characters convincingly so I would rather have had the book focus on one or two issues.
For example the sexism Sadie faces throughout the story and her want to rightfully receive credit for her work is well done and feels genuine and has an impact throughout the story.
For the nostalgia trip of gaming through the years and also the very interesting storytelling devices used I would recommend giving this book a try. However I do feel some of the ideas are a tad unfocussed for me to be fully invested.