Wednesday, October 6, 2010
How to Life Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
When I really enjoy a book I will often tear through it several hundred pages at a time. However, on rare occasion I find myself enjoying a book so much that I parcel it out to myself in much smaller doses, so that I can make it last days and days.
How to Life Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu is such a book.
A description of the plot is entirely inadequate to describe this book, yet I shall provide one nonetheless. The narrator -- coincidentally also named "Charles Yu" -- has taken a job as a travelling time-machine repairman while he tries to find his father, who disappeared from their home universe shortly after inventing a time machine of his own. Aided in his travels by his nonexistent but ontologically valid dog Ed and his time machine's operating system TAMMY (who suffers from low self esteem) Charles Yu becomes unstuck in time, visits his mother, who has chosen to spend her remaining days trapped in a one-hour time loop, then finds himself stuck in a time loop of his own in which he writes a book titled How to Life Safely in a Science Fictional Universe as he tries to keep from shooting himself when he finishes the book ... again.
But the joy of this book isn't in the plot, tightly woven though it is. It's in the prose, the humor, Yu the protagonist's family life, and in the way time travel ultimately becomes a metaphor for fiction and our own travels through life.
Eh, I could spend a lot more time trying to describe this book without ever hitting the mark, but I don't think you should spend any more time reading this review. You should spend your time acquiring and reading this book. It's one of the best that I've read in the last few years.