How to Live Safely In a Science Fictional Universe – A Review

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I think in some blog post of the past I mentioned that I was reading this book. Well, I finally finished. It’s amazing what one can do when they aren’t in class. Who knew? I have this whole new world to explore and I’m excited!

Speaking of worlds…

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu introduces you to a whole new world of science fiction I have yet to read about elsewhere in current authors of science fiction. I have no way of accurately describing this world that Yu introduces except to say that it includes alternate universes and land masses that no longer exist. The main point of this world is that time travel exists and is commercialized. Our main character, Charles Yu, is a time travel machine technician. He spends most of his time in his own time machine, moving through time and space to fix moments where people have abused time travel and fix the machine they traveled on. He has a dog whom anyone can fall in love with if you have a soft spot for animals and his operating system, called TAMMY, keeps him company as if she was a real person. His manager, Phil, also checks in on him now and then, though Phil is also a machine and not real (though Phil is not aware of this). Charles’ dad is missing and his mom isn’t all there, deciding to repeat a particular time loop where she was most happy for the rest of her life.

Yu, the author, gives his reader time to get used to this world he has created. By the time he moves the plot forward, the reader is good and ready to move forward understanding what Yu is telling them (more or less). Yu’s writing style is very “trippy,” as I would describe this to my customers. The proper term is probably postmodern and the narrator has a very existential way of thinking. Existentialism and postmodernism are words one hardly expects in current popular science fiction novels, but this is where the sci-fi is at! It makes sense for the narrator to look at his life this way when he is wandering through a place where all of our concepts of just about anything are thrown out the window and the world of “could have,” “maybe,” and “really wasn’t” reign. Yu also writes in past, present, and future and sometimes writes in all three in the same paragraph.

While this all sounds confusing, Yu convinces his reader that it really isn’t and that time is all one needs to get through this book which is only 233 pages. However, you’ll find yourself dwelling on each page longer than you would expect making the $14.95 you spend on the book worth every penny. This book also has high re-readability value. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or likes science fiction in general. Yu drops a lot of pop culture references that will make you laugh (i.e. “Holy Mother of Ursula K. LeGuin!”). I definitely recommend this to any English majors who are looking for books that bridge the gap between the postmodern books their professors give them and the science fiction they love.

I originally grabbed this book because two men who never read science fiction told me to. Once I opened the book, Yu pulled me into his time loop until he finished his say. While I agree that the best books are the books you can’t put down, sometimes books are great for taking in small doses, especially if you’re busy. This book is great of reading in one sitting, but also great for setting down to read tomorrow.

Score: 5/5

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