Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is novelist and screenwriter Gabrielle Zevin’s fifth adult novel (she’s written several YA novels and three screenplays). Tomorrow is snatching up awards and flying off bookshelves, so I thought I’d give it a try.
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow
By Gabrielle Zevin
Knopf Publishing Group
I was reticent at first, because Tomorrow focuses on gaming, which is not my cup of tea. I am, in fact, the furthest you can get from a gamer. I intensely dislike video games. All the book reviews, however, enthusiastically exclaim that you don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy this book, and I was intrigued by the sprawling story.
It is a grand epic, following Sam and Sadie, two best friends, from 1987 until present day. They first meet in a children’s hospital in Los Angeles at age 11, where Sadie is visiting her sister who is fighting cancer. Sam was in a car accident that severely injured his foot - an injury that will haunt him for the rest of his life. They become best friends in the hospital game room.
They continue their close friendship as kids and then have a falling out. They don’t have contact with each other until their college years in Boston. Sadie is studying game design at MIT (one of the few women in the program) and Sam goes to Harvard. They meet by chance on a subway platform. She offers Sam a disc of a new game she has developed. Once Sam plays the game, he knows he must design a game with Sadie.
Sam is a brilliant guy who needs someone around him with common sense to accomplish the normal tasks in life. For Sam, that person is Marx, his roommate. Marx is our third character, but while Sam and Sadie are definitely the main protagonists, Marx is instrumental in how the story unfolds.
“What is a game?” Marx said. “It’s tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. It’s the possibility of infinite rebirth, infinite redemption. The idea that if you keep playing, you could win, no loss is permanent, because nothing is permanent, ever.”
Sam and Sadie start developing a game together, called “Ichigo,” and are wildly successful. When the game is bought by a larger company, they want to take the genderless main character and make it a boy (no one plays girl characters, apparently). Sam is fine with that, and eventually Sadie capitulates. It’s the first time she makes a gender-related sacrifice and it is the beginning of many she must make as a woman in the gaming industry. As the game is rolled out, everyone sees Sam as the creator of the game, and he travels to promote it. Sadie’s name disappears - at least for a while - yet it was her skills that brought so much beauty to the game.
When they start developing the game, the author goes deep into development jargon, and it was lost on me. A later part of the novel completely takes place in a virtual game world - again, I struggled to stay connected to the story. Over the next 20 years, we see Sam and Sadie, and Marx, create, dissolve, come back together. They experience horrible loss, and separate, and come back together.
The heart of the novel is the friendship, always platonic, between Sam and Sadie. I found Sam annoying most of the time, cloying, needy and often arrogant. I really liked Sadie and while she frustrated me sometimes, I was invested in her story. Marx - well, you can’t help but like Marx.
I had so many mixed emotions about this book, so I checked out the reviews on GoodReads. It’s not just me. Most people love this book. But I noticed, many of those people mention that they play video games. Many of the non-gamers, like me, found the book a bit tedious and long. It’s only ~400 pages, yet it took me (and others) around a week to finish it. I had to force myself back to it, because I was just enough invested, yet it wasn’t a book I had to fill every spare moment with.
In all the reviews, good and bad, for this book, no one has mentioned the title beyond the sentences I quoted above. It’s from MacBeth, and I have no doubt the author knew what she was doing when she chose it. Because while Marx may see endless tomorrows because you never really die in a video game, Shakespeare’s MacBeth saw just the opposite:
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
I fall into both the non-gamer category and that of people who just found this book alright, but nothing special. I appreciate the depth and breadth of the work, and the talent of the writer, but the story just wasn’t for me.
Every now and then, I’ll have some errata to share with you instead of a book or wine review. Recently, I’ve had a lot of browser tabs open with things that I think you’ll enjoy.
First, I stumbled across an article in defense of the Did Not Finish (DNF) pile. I have had trouble with this myself, feeling I must finish every book I start. A few years ago, I pivoted. I could read so many more books if I just put down the ones I didn’t like. (Ok, I maybe should have put down today’s book!)
In Defense of DNF
Next, traveling is one of my favorite activities (I’m writing this from my NYC hotel room). So when I see an article like this, I bookmark it for the future. “Why London Is One of the Best Places in the World to Drink Wine”
Then there is this hilarious bit with Tom Hanks and Stephen Colbert. Apparently, over the holidays, Tom Hanks created his own cocktail. He added Champagne to the soft drink Diet Coke and calls it “Diet Cokeagne.” Cute. I have yet to try this - I cannot bring myself to pour bubbly wine into Coke, but Colbert declared it “shamefully good.” You’ll have to try for yourselves!
Tom Hanks on Colbert, creating “Diet Cokeagne”
Finally, I have to share what I believe is the world’s best vending machine. In our hotel in NYC, they have an actual champagne vending machine from Moët & Chandon. I’ve snapped the photo but I will definitely be grabbing a champagne split over the weekend.
Thanks everyone and have a great weekend!
One of my faves (maybe THE fave) of last night.