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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.

©2010 Charles Yu (P)2011 Recorded Books, LLC

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3 out of 5 stars
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    36
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

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.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • sgtbuk1
  • Knoxville, TN United States
  • 07-08-11

Cerebral

I enjoyed Yu's metaphorical look at modern life and family. Sometimes fantastic situations are the best way to relay profound truths. It reminded me of Vonnegut.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Michael
  • Cedar Park, TX, United States
  • 01-16-12

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.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

More existential allegory than science fiction.

This book is an allegory reminiscent of Richard Bach's Illusions or Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Although effective for its genre, this isn't really science fiction and shouldn't be filed here.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Joe Kraus
  • Kingston, PA, United States
  • 03-27-13

Weird and Ultimately Worth It

Would you listen to How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe again? Why?

This is a rare audiobook I might indeed listen to again. It's so much about time loops that going back to the beginning of it makes sense.

What did you like best about this story?

It does drag around its central moment, but that's the point. How do avoid what you know is inevitable?

This is strong sci-fi; it's inventive in its technology, and it raises genuine logical conundra. I'm not sure it resolves all of them in entirely satisfying ways, but it does have a payoff.

What does James Yaegashi bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He had just the right trace of an accent to make this work. He reads well, and I thought it added to the nature of what the book is doing.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Scott
  • Orlando, FL, United States
  • 10-18-12

High Hopes, Dashed

I love time travel stories, and I love science fiction... Those aspects of this book were great, and I really enjoyed the writing style. What I couldn't get past, was the lack of story. It's a worth while read/listen for the science fiction, but if you're looking for a story, it's just not there...

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

When it happens, this is what happens...

I think this is well worth a credit given the entertainment factor and that it's not an overly-long book. That said, I'm planted firmly in the *I adore this and no one can change my mind* side of things though, so I'm admittedly biased. I would recommend this novel for anyone who loves Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five" or maybe even Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"

It has heart, humor, it makes you think about life and your mortality. It makes you think about how you view and experience the world. My absolute favorite gem from the book is this (paraphrased) bit about how "time heals ... time is a machine ... it will force you to move on and you have no choice in the matter" because it's stated so simply and yet, it had not occurred to me to be quite so aware that I should pay attention to actual in the moment feelings. Even the painful ones.

James Yaegashi is a wonderful narrator and I can't wait to listen to more from him. Likewise, I look forward to more novels from the author Charles Yu.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Started and ended well but got lost in the middle

Warning: Spoilers ahead. I’ve got to say, I really expected to like this book more than than I did. From the start, I enjoyed the way the story seemed to be a metaphysical thought experiment, dancing through could-be’s and should-be’s like a time-traipsing Fred Astaire. The main character spends his life bouncing from place to place in a time machine, correcting mistakes made by other chrononauts in fictional universes. His only companions are a pair of sentient computer programs and a retconned dog left in an abandoned escape pod after his reality’s creator decided he wasn’t necessary to the creator’s story. Soon, the main character manages to get his hands on his own autobiography, written by a future version of himself, which chronicles his life as it is currently happening. Interesting stuff, right? Unfortunately, about halfway into the book, the author /protagonist delves into a philosophical, meta-spiritual jaunt through his relationship with his father. While ostensibly part of the main story (the main character is searching for his father who went missing ten years earlier), the entire middle section of the book was a sappy, self-serving psychotherapy session intended to help the author through his obvious inferiority complex and abandonment issues. I regularly found myself rolling my eyes and wishing the story would get back on track. The resolution, when it finally came, felt rushed an unimportant, as if the author had worked through his problems and needed to be reminded that he had to finish the story for the readers.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

I kept waiting for it to get good

The beginning of this book was better than the second half. It felt like the author was trying to blow my mind but the whole circular thinking thing...it just felt redundant. Then it was just boring. I have a couple hours left and am hoping it redeems itself but so far it’s just torture waiting to see.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

125%

The narration was strangely slow-paced and kind of driving me nuts. Fortunately, I remembered having seen a feature on the app which would allow me to listen at a higher speed. So, I listened to this one almost entirely at 125% of normal speed, and that was just fine. I did not mind that it made the title shorter, because I was ready for it to "wrap up" around the time that I reached the end, anyway. :)

The story kind of seems like philosophy disguised as science fiction. I know very little about Buddhism, but it reminded me a little of Way of the Peaceful Warrior, which I read nearly thirty years ago, when I was quite lost in the woods and did not know it. Now I know it, which makes it a bit easier.

Anyway, it was a pretty good story. I sometimes thought that time travel in this story may be intended as a metaphor for home movies (video) and "snapshots" (images), but I never felt clear enough about any of it to make a good argument for this theory. Mayhaps I will read the Wikipedia article about it, and see if someone smarter than me can shine a little light on it for me.

It was enjoyable, and quite funny at times. It reminded me of Douglas Adams here and there, and the author is clearly very bright, and maybe even somewhat educated in the "physical sciences" to do such a lovely job of BS. If one of my students spun off such a nice job of it, I would gladly give her or him some actual credit for such brilliant and creative shuffling. ;-)