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

>>Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Title: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
Author: Charles Yu
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 234
Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel
Publication Date: September 7th, 201
Publisher: Pantheon
Rating: 6

From Goodreads: National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Award winner Charles Yu delivers his debut novel, a razor-sharp, ridiculously funny, and utterly touching story of a son searching for his father . . . through quantum space–time.

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.

Wildly new and adventurous, Yu’s debut is certain to send shock waves of wonder through literary space–time.

Why did I read this book? It's the very first selection for Calico Reaction's Theme Park book club!

Source: Library

My Review
This is such a weird book. I don't even know how to write a review for this because I still don't know what I was reading. I'll try my best to explain. Charles Yu is the main protagonist in the book, who sort of rescues people who get lost in their time travelling adventures. One day, he runs into his future self and shoots him and creates a time loop. He spends part of that loop reading/writing a book called How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe which also happens to be the book YOUR reading. Brain 'splode.

Meanwhile, the book has another major plot: Yu and his relationship with his parents, in particular, his father. His father is lost in time and he's trying to find him while also trying to come to terms with their past together.

To be honest, for the first 80 pages or so, I wanted to quit. I think every 3 pages I thought seriously about putting the book down. It was just because it was so dense, so introspective and lacking in any action that I couldn't find myself interested in the story. While I enjoyed Yu's science fictional universe and his clever concepts, I just didn't care. Then the time loop occurs and it gets more interesting. Charles tells so much about his past that I just got lost in it all. It was hard to grab onto any character, except maybe TAMMY, the computer program.

There is some great stuff here though. The writing shows a lot of skill and the time traveling quite fabulous. I loved the interaction of reading the same book that the character is reading inside the story. At one point Charles flips to the back of the book to see what happens and then I did as well. We had the same result and it was pretty awesome.I just wish there was more to the plot than Charles finding his father and working out his thoughts and memories. When characters (even if they were computers) conversed, it really set off for me, but unfortunately there wasn't a lot of that.

Rating: 6
I’m sorry if this doesn’t seem like much of a review, but it’s a tough book to qualify. All I can say is, if you’re looking for out-of-the-box science fiction, funky time travel and/or a story about a boy and his father, then give this a shot.

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