Review: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu
I am not going to say I completely understand what this book was about, though it’s safe to say had I not read some Jasper Fforde’ s Thursday Next series or some Kurt Vonnegut, I would be completely confused. Still, the novel is clever, and often funny, filled with a lot of 20th Century ideals about science fiction.
Every day in Minor Universe 31 people get into time machines and try to change the past. That’s where Charles Yu, time travel technician, steps in. He helps save people from themselves. Literally. When he’s not taking client calls, Yu visits his mother and searches for his father, who invented time travel and then vanished. The key to locating his father may be found in a book. It’s called How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, and somewhere inside it is information that will help him. It may even save his life.
The novel is not linear, nor is really plotted out. But, I think, that’s the point. Charles spends most of the book hiding in his time machine, not really working, and dwelling on his childhood relationship with his father (daddy issues abound). And that is about as far as the plot goes, but by adding a sort philosophical conversations about time travel, about life, about the choices we make and don’t make, author Yu gives us a glimpse into the soul of how we see our past. Thus what we have here is an often razor-sharp satirical novel about people who try to save their own pasts to alter their future (which does not work) while a son goes in search for a father who is lost in the ether of time itself.