Author: Charles Yu
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Time Travel stories love to play with time and history and the future, usually as
an adventure, often quite serious. In “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional
Universe” Charles Yu breaks the rules by writing about spaces between where alternate
universes exist and by being everyday as well as humorous. His hero is named the same
In this book, the area of science that is experienced time travel theory that is
explored the most is how a person experiences time not only visually but also who he
speaks and thinks of time. The hero spends most of his time in his time travel machine
because his character is what “no one wants to be,” a fix it man. So while Charles Yu
goes about his day in his science fictional universe in his time travel machine, he
experiences what you and I might experience, except he happens to live in TM-31. And
he has a problem. His dad is missing.
In his explanations about life in TM-31, the reader gets to travel along with
theorists in explaining how to visualize space-time in mathematical terms. But it’s also
story space—the place where the author crafts books and this is where the author gets to
be quite amusing in his word play. And TM-31 is an inventive if somewhat narrow city
where the author lives. The author is good at providing day to day examples of where
space-time intersects a person’s life and how it looks if you travel from time to time.
Interspersed with the main story line—the author’s search for his father, is an explanation
of how he lives his off-work life, and get to meet the important people in his life—his
mother, his dog and his OS Tammy.
The main emotional twist comes from how Charles Yu relates to his father while
growing as the son of an inventor. His parents are real people in his life. And along the
way, many of the repercussions of time travel play out.
The story starts out a bit slow but the end plays out quickly as the mystery of
Charles Yu’s missing father is resolved.
After finishing the book, the reader is treated to an interview with the author.