Review of 'How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe'

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

how_to_life_safely_in_a_science_fictional_universe.jpg It is not often I pick up a book based solely on it's cover but this was the case with the amusingly titled “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe”. But, you know what they say about judging a book by it's cover: Sadly, in this case it was true.

Charles lives in a Science Fiction universe as a time machine repairman spending most of his life in a small TM-31 time machine as he travels from job to job. He is in a bit of a rut having fallen for “TAMMY” a computer programme that seems to keep forgetting that she (it?) is a computer programme. When startled by the sudden appearance of a future version of himself presenting his current self a book entitled “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” and telling him the answer is in there…he shoots the older Charles. Now caught in a temporal loop he has a limited time to figure out how to break out of the loop if he ever hopes to lead a “normal” life.

That is pretty much the blurb on the cover and that pretty much covers the entirety of the book which has chapters alternating between narrative and excerpts from “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” including useful, and timely (no pun intended), definitions. The book is full of SF-y, slightly amusing, goobley-gook that would have been fine in small doses but it never seems to let up and loses it's charm about 20 pages in. Charles has little in the way of character with the setting far more interesting. There are some amusing bits but they are decidedly few and far between making this short 231 page (hard cover) book seem much longer than it actually is.

I wanted to love it, but “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” just was not for me. Interesting, perhaps, but when the cover blurb pretty much covers anything of interest you know it is going to be a bit of a slog for the other 200+ pages…Yeah, I see it has won some awards primarily focused on the author's young age when he wrote this, his first novel, but presumably it is because the other choices were not that great either. I just could not get into it.

Rating: “Average, but who wants to be average?”

Review Date: 2024-06-02

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Corvus Books

Publication Date: 2010

ISBN: 9781848876804