How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
By Charles Yu
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780307739452, June 2011, 256pp.)
The Short of It:
Time travel is an entertaining subject in and of itself, but at its core, this book is a collection of moments. Moments of realization, moments of disappointment and moments of loss and regret.
The Rest of It:
Charles is a time machine repairman on Minor Universe 31. Technically, he is like the auto club for time machines. When a machine fails, he travels across time to fix it. But, these “repairs” are often needed because people go back in time to change the past, and that’s something that should never be done. He runs into all types of people, with his robotic dog by his side, but he’s got problems of his own. In a moment of rash judgment, he shoots his future self. Now, THAT’s a problem. To further complicate things, he comes across a book he’s written, a survival guide for living in a science fictional universe. But at the point of discovery, he’s already gone against much of what it recommends.
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe was wonderful but in a totally weird, quirky way. Parts of it were absolutely touching and sweet and parts of were complete mind benders.
It’s really a book about so many things. The relationship between Charles and his family is achingly sad. Charles yearns for so much more, and he doesn’t really understand where things went wrong, so he re-lives moments over and over again in order to gain an understanding. It’s a book about self-discovery, about love and loss but it’s also very funny. There are lots of funny moments to chuckle over.
Fans of science fiction will certainly enjoy this one, but readers who enjoy “what if” scenarios will enjoy this one too. I found myself working stuff out in my head (sort of like what I did when I watched Back to the Future III and thought, wth??)
This was a fun, completely different book. The story was very unique and thoughtful. I’m so glad I read it.
Side Note: I was looking up information on the author and came across this article. Turns out that Yu is a director for the Oscar-winning Digital Domain, a visual effects company. This article also includes Yu’s top ten time travel books. Very interesting.
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