How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (2010) – Charles Yu


This one came on my radar thanks to my sister, she picked it up for her husband for Christmas, and reading the back of it, I was immediately intrigued, and using a Chapters gift card, I went out and picked up my own copy.

Charles Yu is a time travel machine mechanic, living in a tiny pocket universe, based on science fictional narratives, he has his hands full, as everyone has a time machine, and everyone seems to want to try to change things in their past, which of course cannot be done. Rather, it can be, but will trap the traveller in a smaller alternate reality.

Keeping himself in a present-indefinite state, he, like everyone, spends more time looking backward, while he refuses to travel forward, contemplating could have been, should have been, and would have been. He is also trying to find his father, who disappeared years ago.

When he encounters himself, he ends up getting stuck in a time-loop, which may or may not lead to answers about himself and his father, and may or may not lead to his death at his own hands. With his non-existent dog at his side (it was retconned out of a tv series) and his time machine’s on board A.I., TAMMY, Charles begins a journey aided by a book he is writing, will write, has written, called How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.


At times funny, often touching, the story takes us through one man’s past, and how it affects him and all he does, and allows the reader to pontificate on the same, wondering why we continue to exist in the past, wanting to change things, while we exist in the present.

Burying itself in technobabble and subjective tenses, the book is a lot of fun to read, and definitely kept me engaged, as Charles travels along his own past, on his father-son axis, seeing his father as a person, possibly for the first time, seeing things as they actually were, not as he saw them as a child, and searching, desperately for a clue to where (or when) his father is now.

Some of the technobabble can be a little dense, but it still makes for a highly enjoyable read, and the final act, coupled with the ending, and appendix, are probably my favorite part of the book.

The idea that we are constantly travelling forward, while looking backward is certainly valid. Yes, our past experiences definitely indicate choices we will make in the future, but we should not be dwelling on those moments, wishing to have done them differently, we should be in and of the present, striving forward, seeking and wondering.

I quite liked this one. Have you read it?





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