My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Charles Yu must be the love child of Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut. His debut novel, How to Live in a Science Fictional Universe, combines the reality-questioning of Dick with the crazy metafictional style of Vonnegut.
Author Charles Yu writes about character Charles Yu who is a time-machine repairman in Minor Universe 31, a vast story-space on the outskirts of fiction. He travels with TAMMY, a computer that suffers from low self-esteem, and Ed, a nonexistent, but nonetheless real, dog. In between service calls, Yu visits his mother who is stuck in a recurring hour of time making dinner over and over, and searches for his father who invented his own version of time travel and then disappeared. The key to Yu’s quest lies in a book he receives from his future self, called How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe… and he’s the author.
Yu examines the practicalities and paradoxes of time travel in a funny, clever, and emotional story. Some of the metafictional self-references are a little overused, but this is still a very accessible book. This is not a book for everyone, however; it helps to be a science fiction fan who is familiar with the tropes of the time travel subgenre. In fact, I’ll go so far as to predict that you will either love this book or hate it. I loved Yu’s quirky, original voice, and I look forward to reading more by him.