How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

Pantheon Books, New York, 2010

Borrowed from the library.

What an interesting, wild, crazed book this is.  Charles Yu has taken the ideas of time travel and parallel universes and turned them into a story of a son’s search for his father.  At times it feels like genius, at others it just feels so frenetic it made me nauseous.  But that’s how I feel about the little I know of quantum physics.  I am fascinated and totally confused.

How to Live has a time machine technician, Charles Yu, living he life stuck in a dead-end job.  He travels around rescuing other people who get stuck in time.  The technology behind the time machines is based on verb tense, an idea I find just brilliant.

People rent time machines.

The think they can change the past.

Then they get there and find out causality doesn’t work the way they thought it did.  The y get stuck, stuck in places they didn’t mean to go, in places they shouldn’t have tried to go.  The get into trouble.  Logical, metaphysical, etc.

That’s where I come in.  I go and get them out…

But the reason I have job security is that people have no idea how to make themselves happy.  Even with a time machine… From pages 16/17.

Charles’ father left when he was young.  Charles doesn’t really understand why he left or know where he went and his biggest desire is to find him.  Along with his “nonexistent but ontologically valid dog”, Ed and his operating system TAMMY he goes in search of his dad and get into serious trouble, caught in a time loop.

This is a sweet, very geeky, strangely beautiful story.  I think Charles Yu, the author, loves science fiction, cutting edge physics and language.

…..The path of a man’s life is straight, straight, straight, until the moment when it isn’t anymore, and after that it begins to wander aimlessly, and then get tangled, and then at some point the path gets so confusing that the man’s ability to move around in time, his device for conveyance, his memory of what he loves, the engine that moves him forward, it can break, and he can get permanently stuck in his own history.  From page 232.

Yu also has a deep understanding of family, love and memory.  It shows.

Other reviews:

The Mad Hatter’s Bookshelf

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7 Comments

Filed under ContemporaryFiction, Review, SpeculativeFiction

7 responses to “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

  1. Oh, I actually thought this was a handbook a la The Tough Guide to Fantasyland — like, a proper guide to living in a science fiction universe. I’m sad now.

  2. Ti

    I cannot wait to read this one. I am hoping to get it for Christmas. I heard the author on B&N Meet the Writers and he was fascinating to listen to.

    • I will have to check out the B&N site and see if Meet The Writers is online. I’d like to hear Charles Yu talk about this book.

  3. I’m just zipping around the blogosphere, reminding bloggers…If you have read any wonderful literary books
    published in 2010, I urge you to nominate your favorites
    for The Independent Literary Awards. The awards
    include categories of Literary Fiction and Literary Non-Fiction.

    I’m especially interested in having some great nominees for nonfiction!

    P.S. Loved, loved, loved this book!

    • Deb – I’ll pop over and add a couple of nonfiction titles. Is it okay if I haven’t reviewed one yet? I’m just finishing The Hare with Amber Eyes and it is brilliant.

  4. Pingback: Charles Yu – How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe « Fyrefly's Book Blog

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