Sunday, August 29, 2010

"How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe" by Charles Yu - A Book Review

I read this book last week and reviewed it at Amazon yesterday.  It's a must-read book.  It comes out on September 7.  I've never read a book quite like this one.  And that alone blew my mind because I read hundreds of book every year.  It's like Charles Yu (both the author and the name of the Protagonist) reinvented language and shaped it to become this story.  If you're looking for something new & exciting to read that defies genre, then definitely check out this book.

Here's my review:

* * * * *

"I loved this awesome book. It's a word-lover's feast! It blew my mind, literally. I'm a literature person, not a science person at all, but that didn't matter much. I did Google a few words, but mostly I figured out things in context. My vocabulary is definitely larger. That's always a plus when reading a fabulous book: it takes you to places you've never been. And that's an understatement with this spectacular little tome.

The story is lyrical, exciting, surprising, elegant, funny, sad and ultimately, wise. It's a masterpiece of imagination that demands to be read with an open mind because the lines between past, present and future often blur or completely disappear. I found myself in an unexplored literary landscape marveling at the words on my skin and the exotic language piercing my heart. I underlined most of the book, but one of my favorite lines is on page 86: "After a night out in the lost half city, you end up with dust of dead robots in your hair, or someone's dreams, or their nightmares."

This is the story of Charles Yu who lives in Minor Universe 31, a vast story-space on the outskirts of fiction. And yes, paradox fluctuates like the stock market, as the back cover states. I laughed out loud on page 13 at the reference to 'Linus Skywalker' son of Luke who has father issues: "You have no idea what it's like, man. To grow up with the freaking savior of the universe as your dad." The author's sharp wit, sarcasm and sense of humor are worth the price of the book.

Charles Yu is a time travel technician. The main issue with time travel is that everyone wants to do the one thing they can't and shouldn't do: change the past. Therein lies Mr. Yu's job security. But the larger story is his relationship with and search for his father, who invented time travel, then disappeared. The father/son relationship is the beating heart of the beautiful story.

Wildly Kafkaesque one moment, then comic sci-fi the next, "How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe" is peppered with witty tongue-in-cheek sarcasm from TAMMY, an operating system with low self-esteem, and hilarious one-liners from lonely sexbots. What is real and what is not is for you to figure out.

Mr. Yu is a startling new voice in this undefineable genre. When I finished the book, I realized it was a prayer to language and the power and glory of living in the present moment and not letting your one precious life pass you by. I'll be reading this book over and over. It's that good."


"I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we are reading doesn't wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? ...we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us." ~Kafka

"These are not books, lumps of lifeless paper, but minds alive on the shelves. From each of them goes out its own voice... and just as the touch of a button on our set will fill the room with music, so by taking down one of these volumes and opening it, one can call into range the voice of a man far distant in time and space, and hear him speaking to us, mind to mind, heart to heart." ~Gilbert Highet

"Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled "This could change your life." ~Helen Exley



quid said...


What an exciting book, and a great review! It feels like it is truly a fresh and original write. It goes on my wish list. Sure wish I would have selected it as a freebie. I'm working on "The Widower's Tale".

Marion said...

Quid, I'd send you my Advance Reader's Copy, but Ray's reading it and truly, it's totally RED with notes and underlines and dog-earred pages. I may buy me a clean hardback copy when it comes out.

I have "The Widower's Tale" in my hand to read after I finish a delicious little 'cozy' book Kelly sent me. Great minds think alike. I'm sure you'll love this book. I hope it becomes a bestseller. Thank for stopping by. Blessings!

Kelly said...

You certainly make this sound appealing! I'll put it on my wish list at Amazon.

Here it is almost 3:00 and the temp is in the low 80s with less than 75% humidity!!! It's heavenly!! Hope you're getting some of the same.

TheChicGeek said...

Wow, Marion, incredible review! I love the quotes from the book that you shared with us. I will have to add this one to the TBR list :)
Blessings to you, Pretty Dragonfly :)

Woman in a Window said...

Sounds like a mind-bending journey. If I could just manage to read one book! One, Marion! One! Do you know how ridiculous it is that I do not read?!!#%@%$%@* I didn't finish the last amazing book I told you about. Frig. And can't seem to bother picking this new one up that is about time travel and I have to admit, totally sucks, but I thought, hey, I couldn't get through the well written one, maybe I'll try some shit. It's still not working out. Harumph!


Boonie S said...

Sounds good. Thanks for the review.

All the best, Boonie

Wine and Words said...

I love you Marion.

Eric Alder said...

I'm a fan of science fiction (as you may recall) and I can honestly say that the genre contains some of the finest writers I've ever read, period, regardless of category.

This sounds like an interesting book. I may see if my local library has it yet. (If not, I'll ask them to order it!)

Alison said...

Your blog is exceptionally beautiful, I am happy to have found it <3

Serena said...

Sounds like a divine read! Totally different from my usual fare, but I'm putting it on my list. And your review is terrific!

Maggie May said...

Your writing is so passionately observed.

Thank you for your supportive comment on my recent post. Every word matters to me!