10 October 2011

Post 434: How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu. ISBN: 978030737920.

I greatly enjoyed some of the science fiction nerd references in here, i.e. the fact that the TM-31 was described more or less as a Tardis, Linus Skywalker, and a few others that escape me because I sandwiched reading this between Ready Player One and Brains: A Memoir. Yeah... I am glutting a bit on the geekery here.

But overall I didn't much care for this book. I know that part of it is that any book following Ready Player One is like asking someone to make me like drinking orange juice after brushing my teeth. I enjoy both activities, but one is much less pleasant after the other. Yeah, sorry, I can't get that taste out of my mouth right now either and I'm drinking coffee.

The other reason I didn't like it all that much is that Charles Yu (the character in the book) didn't really do much, and while I like philosophical topics in my books the framework of trying to find a lost, but previously distant and cold, father doesn't really work for me. Maybe because I have a cold and distant father and have no desire to find him. Then again, I know exactly where he is right now and still don't have a huge urge to go and "find" him. Perhaps this is more of draw for people who have cold and distant fathers who actually achieve something (like the principles behind time travel), or who have at least spent some quality time with their fathers (trying to build a time machine). This is of course more of a problem with me and my relationship with my father than what Charles Yu1 (the author) has written regarding Charles Yu2 (the character) and his father, but only seeing Charles Yu2's father through Yu2's eyes via a memory corridor does not make him overly sympathetic. Yes, he had it bad with having a slightly less than desirable economic situation (he was poor but not too poor) and marriage (mostly because he neglected the wife to build a time machine) and job (because he was passed over for promotion... possibly because he neglected his job to build a time machine). He just does not seem like the kind of person I would want to find, and I got the feeling that he was the kind of person who didn't really want to be found.

My own father is somewhat like that. And most of that is due to his mental illness, which is very real and very crippling, but he exacerbates the problem by only trying to contact people when it's too late and he's on the verge of being or needing hospitalization. It is hard to feel any emotional or even human connection with someone who only tries to connect with you when they feel they are at the end of their rope. My father only calls me when he's depressed or wants me to visit him for Christmas or whatever (because he's depressed), yet where was my invitation to his wedding? I probably wouldn't have gone, but shouldn't I have at least been invited? And why does he want me to be friends with my step siblings (I think I have five?) whom I have never met and at this rate probably will never meet?

Perhaps this makes me a bad daughter or a bad person, but you can't predict what kind of partner/child/friend you will have if you only allow them to view one part of your life (good or bad). The only thing I can do is recommend that you share as much of your good times with your friends as you do your bad times, and vice versa, or risk getting stuck in some out-of-time portal.

The Labryinth Librarians do a quick flyby of the things I actually liked about this book. To some degree I also agree with Kirkus Reviews on this one, but I wasn't in the mood for it, and so my real feelings about it are best summed up by Goodreader Steven Ramirez.
LibsNote: Library copy.


  1. Have you read The Glass Castle by Walls (I can't remember her first name because I only need the last name in order to shelve it)? I feel like there might be a lot for you to ruminate on in that (or so I hear, as I have not read it myself).

    BUT...you may have already read it and even posted about it. Is there a way to add a search function to this here blog to look up books you've posted about? That'd be cool. I might not be looking hard enough though.

  2. Dayna,
    I have not read it, the author's first name is Jeanette, there is a search function at the top left hand corner of the blog and there are also tags of authors I've covered hyperlinked at the bottom. You can also search my Goodreads shelves. There's a search bar to search only my books near the top right hand side under my profile picture.

    I plan to read it someday, possibly sooner now that you've mentioned it.


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