Saturday, March 03, 2012


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How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, Charles Yu, Pantheon, 2010, 234 pp

Here is another novel I chose because of the title. I had fun reading this story. More than anything it reminded me of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. Charles Yu (yes, the main character shares the author's name) is a time machine repairman, sort of a Cable Guy of time machines. He is searching for his father who he thinks is lost in time, but Charles himself is caught in a time loop. He feels doomed to keep repeating a certain period of his life as he makes the same mistakes over and over.

So instead of a tessaract, he has his weird time loop. Instead of Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who and Mrs Which, he has TAMMY, an operating system with low self-esteem, and Ed, a virtual dog. They co-exist in a box the size of a refrigerator set sideways, called the TM-31 Recreational Time Travel Device. This thing runs on "chronodiegetical technology," a made-up term for something that generates science fictional experiences. It is all very clever, like a creation Michael Chabon's kids would make by combining different Lego sets.

Despite all the intriguing whatchamacallits, the real story is about a boy who grew up trying to assist his dad, an amateur inventor of time travel devices who epically failed and then disappeared. Charles harbors a deep sense of guilt and regret about his dad, leading the author to pursue the cosmic question of how to escape the results of failure.

I personally know only one other person who has read the book and she purely hated it. (We are reading buddies who don't always like the same books but we can nerd out talking about books for hours. We have our own time machine.) She thought it had no plot and threw her copy against a wall. I can understand this reaction but mine was a strong desire to meet Charles Yu, the author that is.

The closest I could come to that was reading interviews with him (just google Charles Yu writer.) He is a lawyer by day, also a husband and father of two small children, and he lives in LA! Maybe I will meet him someday.

(How to Live in a Science Fictional Universe is available in paperback and ebook by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore. To find it at your nearest indie bookstore, click on the cover image above.)

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