How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

  • by Charles Yu
  • Narrated by James Yaegashi
  • 6 hrs and 8 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Audio Not the Way to Go Here

Would you try another book from Charles Yu and/or James Yaegashi?

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.

Has How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe turned you off from other books in this genre?

No. That's insane. I resent the question itself.

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

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.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

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.

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- Garrett Matthew

How to Whine About Daddy for 6 Hours

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

The title of this book seemed so promising, the real disappointment was that it had next to nothing to do with Science Fiction or time travel. Even the idea of using a time machine to explore memories could be interesting, but it seems to be spend almost entirely wallowing in self-pity.

What could Charles Yu have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

I wish this book had lived up to the concept and title and blurbs, or those had been more accurate to the actual content and feel of the book. There was a lot that could have been done with the premise, if only it hadn't been so fixated on family issues.

Which character – as performed by James Yaegashi – was your favorite?

The boss / spreadsheet program was actually pretty fun. So much of the book was inner monologue that the other characters got a bit washed out.

What character would you cut from How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe?

The main character's father and mother. Yes, they're the primary motivation of the book, but maybe without them there could actually be some time travel and science fiction going on.

Any additional comments?

I really wanted to like this one going in, but I was profoundly disappointed. Every time there's a hint of something interesting about the world going on, there's another ten minutes of inner monologue whining about his father and time and memory and regret and a zillion other things.I'm less tolerant than most of characters that dwell on their feelings, but I still couldn't see myself recommending this book under any circumstances.

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- Michael "phoenixdreams"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-05-2011
  • Publisher: Recorded Books