Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tumultuous Time Travel

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
I absolutely adored this book it gets a terrific 5 out of 5 gnomes for having a sincere engaging main character and a story that really keeps you thinking.  This is one of the most well written and lyrical stories that I've read in a long time.  It is so full of great quotes and lines, I have over thirty pages bookmarked where I wanted to go back and note what was said.

The overall story is intriguing in both structure and theme.  Throughout there are excerpts from How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe so it's like a book inside a book.  The plot is explained like a story.  Charles, the main character, lives in Minor Universe 31 where, "physics was only 93 percent installed,..."  Some universes have more heroes and better protagonists then others.  Minor Universe 31 though is very small.

Charles is a time travel technician, he repairs or helps people when they or the machine go wrong.  He can open windows to other universes and see what he's like there.  Just thinking about that would be enough to paralyze me and most people because what if you find out that you're the worst off out of all the possible yous?  Charles doesn't really live in the present, he uses his time machine and stays in between certain minutes so when he has to go in for repairs it turns out that from the present he's been gone for ten years.

The secondary characters in this book are full of quirks but also very fun to read about.  There's Ed, TAMMY, Phil and Charles's Mom.  Ed, Charles's dog he found was retconned out of a western show.  TAMMY is the operating system of the time machine who has low self esteem and is extremely funny in her interactions with Charles.  Phil, his manager doesn't know he's a computer program.  His Mom lives in one hour of time because that's all he could afford for her retirement.  (This buying of a certain hour or time limit to live over and over is another interesting concept that is introduced which makes you contemplate what you would choose.

An incident occurs that leads to a time loop (because as any watcher of Star Trek can attest to, meeting yourself in the past or future is not the best idea).  He has to figure out how to get out of the loop and why the book How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, a book seemingly written by him that he hasn't written yet, is important.  Because of the loop he gets to look back at important events in his life between him and his father.  What follows is an epic journey to find his father that he lost long ago.  The father and son relationship is vividly explored and it's shown how he and his father came to build a time machine and the ramifications it had between them.  It's shown how the past impacts him and what happens to people that tend to live in the past.  There is plenty of adventure along the way and a plethora of surprises as Charles goes through the time loop trying to figure everything out before it starts all over again.

Overall this book has quite the story to tell and will leave you thinking about it for a long time past the last page.  Last but certainly not least is the major plus that How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe ends happily.

1 comment:

  1. I read your review and then looked this book up on GR. Despite the high number on 1-star reviews, I'm intrigued. On a side note, maybe I'm simply following too many YA-centered blogs, but I haven't read a single review of this one before I stumbled upon yours. Thank you for introducing me to this book. I'm up for "thinking about it a long time past the last page" :).


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