Monday, April 11, 2011

Should You Find Yourself in a Sci Fi Universe

Maybe you're tired of National Poetry Month.  Maybe you need a novel that isn't 600 pages long.  Maybe you need something that's fun and both light and deep at the same time.  I highly recommend Charles Yu's latest novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.

It's a book that rewards those of us who wasted great wads of our adolescence reading/watching sci fi, but even if you didn't, the insider jokes won't be too off-putting.  It's the kind of book that rewards those of us who wish we could be physicists (we're fascinated by theories of time and space, but not great at Math), and it's for those of us who are too far behind in our science knowledge to even keep up with Brian Greene's accessible version.  It's the kind of book that's got a plot and characters, and it's also about writing and about fiction and also the ways that writing and fiction are about life.

In short, the protaganist spent his youth building a time machine with his dad.  They never quite got the time machine to work, but a short time later, the technique has been perfected, and the protaganist gets a job repairing time machines.  He remarks "But no one grows up wanting to be the time machine repair guy.  No one says, Hey, I want to be the guy who fixes stuff." (p. 30)

Here are some additional quotes to whet your appetite:

(after telling us we can't change the past, good news or bad news, depending on your perspective):  "The universe just doesn't put up with that.  We aren't important enough.  No one is.  Even in our own lives.  We're just not strong enough, willful enough, skilled enough in chronodiegetic manipulation to be able to just accidentally change the entire course of anything, even ourselves." (p. 14)

"A typical customer gets into a machine that can literally take her whenever she'd like to go.  Do you want to know what the first stop usually is?  Take a guess.  Don't guess.  You already know:  the unhappiest day of her life." (pp. 45-46)

"Life is, to some extent, an extended dialogue with your future self about how exactly you are going to let yourself down over the coming years." (p. 131).

"Everyone has a time machine.  Everyone is a time machine.  It's just that most people's machines are broken.  The strangest and hardest kind of time travel is the unaided kind.  People get stuck, people get looped.  People get trapped.  But we are all time machines.  We are all perfectly engineered time machines, technologically equipped to allow the inside user, the traveler riding inside each of us, to experience time travel, and loss, and understanding.  We are universal time machines manufactured to the most exacting specifications possible.  Every single one of us." (p. 164-165).


Jim Murdoch said...

This is going on my Amazon wish list.

learn to oil paint said...

I like your blog. Great Article....Daniel

learn to oil paint said...

I like your blog. Great Article....Daniel

Beth said...

This one's already on my list of stuff to read. Too bad said list is a mile long.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott said...

Daniel, welcome to the blog!

Jim, the book's been out awhile--your local library might have it, depending on the size of your local library.

Ah, Kay, I, too, have a list that will outlast me. Good to have something to do in retirement. May our eyes and brains hold together!