Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a fascinating fictional hybrid: a view into the intricate art and craft of video-game design, a poignant bildungsroman, and a love story. A prolific novelist, Gabrielle Zevin is equally comfortable with poetic language and computer coding concepts, and she excels at depicting the subtlest of human emotions. An Emily Dickinson poem (“That Love is all there is”) serves as the epigraph of the book:
That Love is all there is,
Is all we know of Love;
It is enough, the freight should be
Proportioned to the groove.
Like Dickinson, Zevin suggests a world in which meaning does not need to be separated from mechanics.
The novel concerns three brilliant young students: Sam, Marx, and Sadie. The two young men are roommates at Harvard; Sadie, whom they both adore, is a student at MIT. Together, they attempt to make video games whose riddles and hypothetical quests will become as familiar to their generation as Shakespeare and his heroes were to his.
In creating the fantastical worlds of their video games, Sadie and her peers feel that they are improving on reality. One of them describes the virtual world as “perfectible,” unlike the “actual world … the random garbage fire it always is.” He goes on to say, “There’s not a goddamn thing I can do about the actual world’s code.” These young computer designers are confident in their ability to create a universe far more fair (in both senses of the world) than the one into which they were born.
We all know that real world all too well. It is one in which failure can be final, bodies can be broken, and hearts can be hurt beyond repair. Zevin’s slow, patient plotline subjects all three of her protagonists to pain. Sam, an outsider who is Jewish and Korean, has a badly injured foot, prone to infection, for which he is hospitalized from an early age. Sadie, who is also Jewish, is victimized by a charming Israeli “mentor” at the predominantly male MIT. Marx’s internal conflict is embodied by his American Korean mother’s subservience to his Japanese father. All must face the vagaries of friendship, professional jealousy, a cruel and sometimes violent public — and the love triangle that is embedded in the grooves of the plot.
But the virtual world is different. As Marx puts it: “What is a game? … 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.” This is the key to this novel’s wistful charm — the belief that “tomorrow” is always possible, and that, within that endless future, “Love is all there is.”
Sonia Taitz, a Ramaz, Yale Law, and Oxford graduate, is the author of five books, including the acclaimed “second generation” memoir, The Watchmaker’s Daughter, and the novel, Great with Child. Praised for her warmth and wit by Vanity Fair, The New York Times Book Review, People and The Chicago Tribune, she is currently working on a novel about the Zohar, the mystical source of Jewish transcendence.