Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just finished reading...


Charles Yu’s first novel, HOW TO LIVE SAFELY IN A SCIENCE FICTIONAL UNIVERSE might be a thin book, but it is packed with all kinds of enormous ideas and concepts.
At the core of this story is time travel and time machines. Our narrator, a time machine repairman who exists outside of time and space as he assists those whose time machines have broken down, is in search of his father. Their complicated and tense relationship included the invention of a time machine but ultimately led to the disappearance of the father—whether accidental or intentional is something our narrator yearns to discover.
On the surface, the book is full of what appear to be actual or plausible references to physics and the study of space-time, or at least what little we know of it at this point. The presentation is at once scientific but also supremely poetic. Yu writes in long, gorgeous sentences, each section, each set of words elaborating and expounding on what came before it, building and growing and stretching the idea or sense or feeling of the sentence into something that seems much larger, something that seems to work its way into your heart. I like this style of writing, and indeed it reminds me of my own (see the previous sentence!).
Under the science lies a character who is torn, aching. With time loops, infinite universes and infinite versions of himself, the book has what I interpret to be a happy ending… but with that many variables and time paradoxes, it is hard to tell. And I like that. The ending is exactly what it should be when discussing parallel universes.
Recommend? Yes. I quite liked it. But I am also aware that even beyond science fiction, time stories are not to everyone’s liking. It requires a mind set that is able to follow complicated thought patterns, complicated time constructs, paradoxes, and an ability to see time as relative and non-linear—or in this case, non-existent.

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