There’s a dog that technically doesn’t exist, but he’s still a dog. With enough mathematics, most anything can be proven to exist or not.
“How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” centers around the character Charles Yu (sharing the name of the author), who repairs time machines.
More often than not, people are traveling to the saddest parts of their lives and living it over and over again, trying to change it.
It’s Charles’ job to fix the time machines and make sure they don’t destabilize the fabric that separates the various realities and universes that the time machines travel between.
There is one very important rule that every person that works with time machines must follow: if you ever, under any circumstances, see yourself exiting a time machine, you run. Run as fast and as far away as you can.
So, of course, Charles runs into himself.
He unfortunately shoots his future self, thus dooming himself to be shot by himself, because eventually he will become his future self.
Despite my efforts to make this all sound really confusing, the book is surprisingly good at explaining what’s going on without simply throwing in technology words and attempting to sound smart.
It is a clever book and resonates with the writing of Douglas Adams. It’s somewhat tongue-in-cheek but doesn’t sacrifice its intelligence or weight for the sake of making a joke.
Yet the book certainly isn’t lacking in humor. There is a scene early on wherein Charles’ artificial intelligence assistant, TAMMY, starts to cry. He asks, “Why do you even know how to do that?”
Ultimately, what makes the story work is the way it meanders, although that sounds more negative than I mean it to be.
The story gets fairly unfocused for quite some time, with a few pages of various fictional instruction manuals about alternate universes inserted here and there between chapters.
The story itself is a simple one of searching for oneself and meaning in one’s life, via those around us and the limited time we have.
What’s important here is the telling, and in the case of “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe,” the telling is undoubtedly, surprisingly good.