Synopses & Reviews
National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Award-winner Charles Yu delivers his debut novel, a razor-sharp, ridiculously funny, and utterly touching story of a son searching for his father... through quantum space-time.
Minor Universe 31 is a vast story-space on the outskirts of fiction, where paradox fluctuates like the stock market, lonely sexbots beckon failed protagonists, and time-travel is serious business. Every day, people get into time machines and try to do the one thing they should never do: change the past. That’s where Charles Yu, time travel technician — part counselor, part gadget repair man — steps in. He helps save people from themselves. Literally. When he’s not taking client calls, Yu visits his mother (stuck in a one-hour cycle, she makes dinner over and over and over) and searches for his father, who invented time travel and then vanished. Accompanied by TAMMY, an operating system with low self-esteem, and a nonexistent but ontologically valid dog named Ed, and using a book titled How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe as his guide, Yu sets out, and back, and beyond, in order to find the one day where he and his father can meet in memory.
Wildly new and adventurous, Yu’s debut is certain to send shock waves of wonder through literary space-time.
"Yu uses futuristic ideas to explore a mundane theme: writing about the self and the moment in Tristram Shandy-esque digressions. The protagonist, who shares the author's name, spends most of the story interacting with entities that either mirror him (TAMMY, an operating system who reflects his personality) or don't exist (Ed, a 'weird ontological entity' in the shape of a dog; Phil, a programmed supervisor who thinks he's human). The conclusion tries to mitigate character-Yu's risk-averse solipsism, but is too quick and abstract to really counter the rest of the book's emotional weight. Mainstream readers will be baffled by the highly nonlinear Oedipal time travel plot, but the passive, self-obsessed protagonist is straight out of the mainstream fiction that many SF fans love to hate, leaving this book without an audience. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Charles Yu is a tremendously clever writer, and How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is marvelously written, sweetly geeky, good clean time-bending fun." Audrey Niffenegger, author of Her Fearful Symmetry and The Time Traveler's Wife
"This book is cool as hell. If I could go back in time and read it earlier, I would." Colson Whitehead, author of Sag Harbor
"A funny, brain-teasing, and wise take on archetypal father-and-son issues, the mysteries of time and memory, emotional inertia, and one sweet but bumbling misfit's attempts to escape a legacy of sadness and isolation." Booklist
"A fascinating, philosophical and disorienting thriller about life and the context that gives it meaning." Kirkus Reviews
National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Award-winner Yu delivers his debut novel, a razor-sharp, ridiculously funny, and utterly touching story of a son searching for his father through quantum space-time.
About the Author
Charles Yu received the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award for his story collection Third Class Superhero, and he has also received the Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award. His work has been published in the Harvard Review, the Gettysburg Review, the Alaska Quarterly Review, the Mississippi Review, and the Mid-American Review, among other journals. He lives in Los Angeles.