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 or consoling his boss, Phil, who could really use an upgrade, Yu visits his mother (stuck in a one-hour cycle of time, 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 Ed, a nonexistent but ontologically valid dog, Yu sets out, and back, and beyond, in order to find the one day where he and his father can meet in memory. He learns that the key may be found in a book he got from his future self. It’s called How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, and he’s the author. And somewhere inside it is the information that could help him—in fact it may even save his life.
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Audio Not the Way to Go Here
I would not rule it out for either, though I was more fond of the performance than the writing. I also understand that the print version of the book has a lot of visual material which adds to the experience. I can't help but feel that, missing that in the audio version, I missed too much about what makes this book work. Perhaps I'll read Yu in the future, rather than listen.
No. That's insane. I resent the question itself.
James Yaegashi's performance was workmanlike at least. It can be hard for me to separate the performance from the text when I don't like the latter, but perhaps it's a testament to Yaegashi that I found the performance solid despite the text.
If there's one thing that stands out to me, though, it is how much I appreciate the fact that a book written by an Asian American, featuring an Asian American protagonist and narrator, was cast to an Asian American performer when, in theory, any disembodied voice would do. That's good representation, and it's worth points in my book.
I felt mostly disappointed by the book, and it's possible to chock that up to misguided expectations. I was expecting a playground of references and in-jokes and meta-genre wackiness, and the book mostly dispenses with these early on. Later, when I started to understand that the book was thinking about the first-generation experience, I expected it to... I don't know... do more with that. Too much of the text ended up being devoted to tedious accounts of watered down time travel theory and extremely labored reminders of non-linearity. This was, to some extent, by design -- the narrator's inability to move forward with his life is demonstrated by how focused he is on meaningless tedium. But it was, well, really, really tedious.
As I said above, I learned later that a lot of the fun of this book is tied up in its visual play, and I can't help feeling that the text doesn't work very well without that.
- Garrett Matthew