How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
Publisher: Pantheon | 2010 | 233 pages
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Minor Universe 31 is a vast story-space on the outskirts of fiction, where paradox fluctuates like the stock market, lonely sexbots beckon failed protagonists, and time travel is serious business.
Every day, people get into time machines and try to do the one thing they should never do: change the past. That’s where Charles Yu, time travel technician—part counselor, part gadget repair man—steps in. He helps save people from themselves. Literally. When he’s not taking client calls or consoling his boss, Phil, who could really use an upgrade, Yu visits his mother (stuck in a one-hour cycle of time, she makes dinner over and over and over) and searches for his father, who invented time travel and then vanished.
Accompanied by TAMMY, an operating system with low self-esteem, and Ed, a nonexistent but ontologically valid dog, Yu sets out, and back, and beyond, in order to find the one day where he and his father can meet in memory. He learns that the key may be found in a book he got from his future self. It’s called How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, and he’s the author. And somewhere inside it is the information that could help him—in fact it may even save his life.
I am so trying to read as much as I can. I am truly trying my best! My shelf is filled with unread books bought and sent to me for review since 2010! This book was one of them, that was why I picked to read it.
Science fiction books are not my cup of tea. I guess the reason why I accepted this book for review was because of Colson Whitehead saying “This book is cool as hell. If I could go back in time and read it earlier, I would.” I had no idea who Colson was but after Googling, I found that he is a New York-based novelist and the author of the 1999 novel The Intuitionist.
This book had an interesting start. Like this:
When it happens, this is what happens. I shoot myself.
Not, you know, my self self. I shoot my future self. He steps out of a time machine, introduces himself as Charles Yu. What else am I supposed to do? I kill him. I kill my own future.
That is kind of different from what you usually read, eh? The writing was just like that almost throughout the whole book. Easygoing, straightforward but at some pages, it got too long and ‘science fiction’ that I just glazed over the words, not really reading them as I should.
Despite the good start into the story, I sort of lost interest in the story and if the main character would manage to find his father. I was interested in the father-son relationship going on there, about how Yu and his father would spend hours working together in the garage, etc.
The conversation parts between Yu and others were alright. I could still tolerate with his lengthy monologue but the scientific and super-big words such as chronodiegetic put me off a little. The meaning of that word must have been explained somewhere in there, maybe in Chapter 27, and I don’t remember if I remembered what it meant.
I am so glad to have finally finished this book. I tried to read a little every day. It took me a little more than a week to finish this. I cannot wait to start reading a book that I will really like!
It was an enjoyable read while it lasted.
Also, an interesting bit about the author who has the same name as the main character. Yu started writing in 2002, shortly after he began his career as a lawyer. Amazing, huh? A lawyer writing science fiction books!
***Thanks to Random House for sending me a review copy of this book.