How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional UniverseBook |
Over and over and over again.
In the grand tradition of metafiction, Charles Yu names his protagonist Charles Yu. Then in the grand tradition of science fiction, he makes this protagonist a time traveler out to set things right -- even while he knows his future self has already shot his past self in the stomach. And this is where tradition begins shedding away, as Yu takes on time, memory, family, and narrative itself with beautiful sadness tempered by winking humor. The clever Yu constructs his novel around the story of the fictional Yu, a time machine repairman who gets stuck in a time loop fleeing the future self who shoots him. Through science fictional tropes -- a zombified ideal mother, an operating system-cum-love interest, and a theortical sidekick, to name a few -- Yu explores how the self experiences the past within the present, how memory stalls or kickstarts his personal development, and how processing life becomes a form of narration within the individual. As the protagonist loops back through memories of his father's attempts to create a time machine, Yu literalizes Cartesian dualism in a sense, fictional Yu's soul learning what his future body has not, and at the same time turns dualism on its head as Yu's father, both body and soul, become stuck in an unoccupied minute. If the novel seems totally brainy, it is! But the heart with which How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is what makes the novel surpass the conventions of any genre.
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