5.17.2012

Review of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

Time Machines.

If you are a fan of science fiction, you can spend a lot of time thinking about time machines. From H. G. Wells’ classic tale to Marty McFly and Doc Brown’s Delorian. Time travel stories are an integral part of modern pop culture and have been around for a long time. And they can be fun, complex and engaging.

As with many things, I’m still getting caught up reading the books I’ve been meaning to (boy, a time machine would come in handy with that, that is if I could stay out of time paradoxes), and one I’ve been meaning to read for a while, I’ve just finished the entertaining and well written novel by Charles Yu, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.

I was first drawn in by the jacket art, being a big fan of ray guns, I thought the design was playful and fun. [I am referring to the hardcover artwork of all the ray guns] It reached out to this fan of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Although now having read the book, I think the design would have been slightly more spot on if they were all little time machines or various space capsules, as the book follows Charles and his experiences as a time travel repair man of sorts. Variations on the TM - 31 time capsule in the book might have been fun.

A sentimental story about a boy and his long lost father. This happens in Minor Universe 31, a far off universe not that unlike ours, just way out on the edge of tomorrow. That’s where Charles comes in, he’s a time travel tech, and his job is to save people from getting locked in time loops as they go back in “recreational” time machines, as for most it’s too tempting to simply watch their past go by like a ghost of Christmas past.

Here’s a favorite quote from early on in the book:

I have seen pretty much everything that can go wrong, the various and mysterious problems in contemporary time travel. You work in this business long enough and you know what you really do for a living.

Aside from interacting with his cast of program friends, operating system TAMMY, faithful dog Ed, he goes on the ultimate trip, back into his own past (or future, or present -- get used to it, many sentences read like this) to find his own father, who just so happend to invent time travel, then immediately disappear.

I recommend this futuristic & nostalgic trip through time, and enjoyed his easy pace and scientific phraseology--even if I didn’t understand all of it. If it means anything, I’m going to pick up Charles’ other book, Third Class Superhero. Plus, I like that there’s a robot on the cover.