Game development

“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” review: Starts strong, but stumbles | Arts

At a crowded MBTA station, Harvard student Sam Masur calls out the name of a childhood friend he’s estranged from. “SADIE MIRANDA GREEN,” he shouts, “YOU DIED OF DYSENTERY.”

So begins “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” by Gabrielle Zevin, a novel that follows the lives of video game developers Sam and Sadie over the course of thirty years. Described by Penguin Books as “not a romance, but about love”, the novel is a compelling and cleverly written exploration of the relationship between two close friends, but unfortunately struggles to manage its multiple storylines in later sections of the book. delivered.

After a chance encounter in a hospital as teenagers, Sam and Sadie bonded over their shared love of video games until their friendship came to an abrupt end. Years later, they reunite in Cambridge, where Sam studies at Harvard and Sadie at MIT. They begin a partnership, and soon the explosive success of their first video game, “Ichigo”, propels them into the video game industry.

Zevin weaves several other stories into the novel alongside Sam and Sadie. Flashbacks to Sam’s childhood growing up in Los Angeles with her grandparents and actress mother are intertwined with Sadie’s memories of volunteering at the hospital where her sister was being treated for cancer. Marx, Sam’s college roommate, also has his own storyline, as he navigates as a supporting character (or NPC, as the book calls him) in the lives of his two closest friends.

That’s a lot to juggle in a single novel, and Zevin pulls it off with deft dexterity. A book about video games may seem intimidating to those with no knowledge of gaming, but this novel is more about human relationships than video games. And in places where understanding the technical side of video game development becomes necessary, Zevin walks the reader through the process step by step.

The book’s strengths, however, lie in its characters, and the plot ultimately takes precedence over the relationships between its three main characters. Sam, Sadie, and Marx are all down-to-earth, likable characters that you can’t help but root for despite their flaws. Through them, the novel paints a compassionate depiction of the messy dynamics of a long and complicated friendship.

Zevin also does a terrific job of immersing the reader in the book’s multiple settings, from Koreatown to Los Angeles to Cambridge. Throughout the first half of the book, Zevin’s excellent prose deftly jumps between perspectives and timelines, guiding the reader through a quick and authentic portrayal of the places his characters call home.

Unfortunately, halfway through, the book begins to drag. “Tomorrow” is over four hundred pages, and the plot doesn’t quite justify its length. After Sam and Sadie’s first hit with “Ichigo”, the story becomes repetitive. Sam and Sadie release more games and start their own business. They fall in love and fall in love with various supporting characters. On a positive note, Sadie’s relationship with Marx has a refreshingly steady arc throughout the book, and their romance develops intriguingly and authentically.

The book tries to compensate for its flaws by introducing new characters and plots. A subplot about marriage equality in a Sims-like world, an ex-Mormon couple designing a post-apocalyptic video game, and a cutting-edge production of “Macbeth” are just a few. additional plots. While each is interesting on their own, they detract from Sam and Sadie’s story, making the second half disjointed.

“Tomorrow” pulls itself together at the end, however. The last fifty pages once again showcase Zevin’s writing skills, as she pulls together several plot threads to produce a poignant finale. Although the plot winds its way to its final destination, it eventually gets there, and the destination is exciting and emotionally satisfying.

A final point of praise is the novel’s approach to representation. Sam and Sadie are both Jewish and Sam’s mother is Korean-American. Zevin (who is Korean and Jewish herself) weaves her characters’ identities into the novel with nuance and thoughtfulness. The novel tackles issues such as racism in the performing arts and how dialogues of cultural appropriation rarely make room for artists of mixed-race identity. Sam is also physically disabled from a car accident and he walks with a cane. Zevin incorporates his experience of living with this disability into the story.

Although its second half struggles with an uneven pace, “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” is worth reading. The book unflinchingly enters the mess of our complex and often mysterious world, joyfully revealing to readers what it means to be human and to be a friend.

—Editor Samantha H. Chung can be reached at [email protected]