How to live safely in a science fictional universe, by Charles Yu, fits into the science fiction genre only by default. It doesn’t fit into any genre. By this I don’t mean it combines or crosses genres like Perdition Street Station or Ancillary Justice. I mean it is a unique work without clear antecedent.
The ‘plot’, for what it’s worth, follows Charles Yu as he travels haphazardly through quantum space time in an attempt to find his father.
Charles Yu is a time machine repair man. His job to help those who have rented a time machine in the hope of revisiting a key point in their past, only to get stuck in an alternate universe or lost in a place and time they don’t want to be.
Charles is joined by Tammy, an AI with low self-esteem, and his dog Ed, who doesn’t exist but is still real enough.
Why you should read How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe
While the focus of the plot is for Charles Yu is to find his father, the purpose of the narrative is more far reaching. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is a novel about being cast a drift from our own lives. Of being pushed off the path we believe our lives should have been on and being left stuck going through the motions.
It’s a story about how we can be lost in our own memories and regret. About how we all have the capacity for internal time travel. Our minds endlessly going back to memories of regret and loss.
The tone of the novel is actually more uplifting than its subject matter. Yu’s playful style eases the reader into its darker more tragic themes of the wasting of human lives.
The meta level discourse, and stream of consciousness ramblings, make How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe a challenging read at times. Tenses and reality in Minor Universe 31 are somewhat malleable and the plot zigzags through various realities in a way that’s disorienting to the reader. What holds the reader’s attention throughout all of this madness is the all too relatable human tragedy at the heart of the novel.
How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is a mature work. It’s for those looking for a novel to help them examine their lives rather than to escape from them. It’s a novel that, as soon as you finish reading, you know will stay with you for a long time. For that reason, it’s on our list of funniest science fiction novels ever.
If you’re still looking for a science fiction novel, why not take a look at our ultimate science fiction reading list.