peteg's blog - noise - books - 2010 11 07 CharlesYu HowToLiveSafelyInAScienceFictionalUniverse

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

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I bought this from Abebooks; the world economy is so weird right now that it's cheaper to buy a book from an American seller via the site, in pounds: this cost me a total of $AU20 for a first US edition in perfect condition from a shop in New York, whereas the UNSW Bookshop wants $AU26. I'm a little surprised they didn't throw in a flight to London as that might be cheaper than the postage.

Anyway, I got this book on the strength of this glowing review in the New York Times. That writer is spot-on in linking Yu with Douglas Adams, especially through TAMMY, a clear evolution of Marvin for a jaded audience. I enjoyed his rendering of time travel as an internal experience, how it works via particular gramatical structures, especially the present indefinite. However this is an asymmetric view of time, for it does not treat the foreknowledge one might gain from returning from the future.

It's well written, sometimes amusing, but a tad disappointing as it doesn't add up to much more than a rumination on father-son relationships. The discussion of his parents' experiences as migrants is too cursory.