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Minor Universe 31 is a vast story-space on the outskirts of fiction, where paradox fluctuates like the stock market 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, Yu visits his mother (stuck in a onehour cycle, 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 a nonexistent but ontologically valid dog named Ed, and using a book titled How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe as his guide, Yu sets out, and back, and beyond, in order to find the one day where he and his father can meet in memory.
Wildly new and adventurous, Yu’s debut is certain to send shock waves of wonder through literary space-time.
“How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is that rare thing—a truly original novel. Charles Yu has built a strange, beautiful, intricate machine, with a pulse that carries as much blood as it does electricity.” —Kevin Brockmeier, author of The View from the Seventh Layer and The Brief History of the Dead
"Charles Yu is a tremendously clever writer, and How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is marvelously written, sweetly geeky, good clean time-bending fun." —Audrey Niffenegger, author of Her Fearful Symmetry and The Time Traveler's Wife
“Poignant, hilarious, and electrically original. Bends time, mind, and genre.” —David Eagleman, author of Sum
"This book is cool as hell. If I could go back in time and read it earlier, I would." —Colson Whitehead, author of Sag Harbor
“Yu's literary pyrotechnics come in a marvelously entertaining and accessible package, featuring a reluctant, time machine-operating hero on a continual quest to discover what really happened to his missing father, a mysterious book possibly answering all, and a computer with the most idiosyncratic personality since HAL or Deep Thought. . . . Like the work of Richard Powers . . . How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe fuses the scientific and the emotional in ways that bring about something new.” —Sarah Weinman, The Daily Beast
"In this debut novel, Charles Yu continues his ambitious exploration of the fantastic with a whimsical yet sincere tribute to old-school science fiction and quantum physics. . . . A fascinating, philosophical and disorienting thriller about life and the context that gives it meaning." —Kirkus, starred review
"With Star Wars allusions, glimpses of a future world, and journeys to the past, as well as hilarious and poignant explanations of 'chronodiegetics,' or the 'theory of the nature and function of time within a narrative space,'Yu, winner of the National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35 Award, constructs a clever, fluently metaphorical tale. A funny, brain-teasing, and wise take on archetypal father-and-son issues, the mysteries of time and memory, emotional inertia, and one sweet but bumbling misfit’s attempts to escape a legacy of sadness and isolation." —Booklist
"Compulsively rereadable. . . . Hilarious. . . . Yu has a crisp, intermittently lyrical prose style, one that's comfortable with both math and sadness, moving seamlessly from delirious metafiction to the straight-faced prose of instruction-manual entries. . . . [The book itself] is like Steve Jobs' ultimate hardware fetish, a dreamlike amalgam of functionality and predetermination." —The Los Angeles Times
"Getting stuck with Yu in his time loop is like watching an episode of Doctor Who as written by the young Philip Roth. Even when recalling his most painful childhood moments, Yu makes fun of himself or pulls you into a silly description of fake physics experiments. In this way, he delivers one of the most clear-eyed descriptions of consciousness I've seen in literature: It's full of self-mockery and self-deception, and yet somehow manages to keep its hands on the wheel, driving us forward into an unknowable future. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is intellectually demanding, but also emotionally rich and funny. . . . It's clearly the work of a scifi geek who knows how to twist pop culture tropes into melancholy meditations on the nature of consciousness." —io9
“Glittering layers of gorgeous and playful meta-science-fiction. . . . Like [Douglas] Adams, Yu is very funny, usually proportional to the wildness of his inventions, but Yu's sound and fury conceal (and construct) this novel's dense, tragic, all-too-human heart. . . . Yu is a superhero of rendering human consciousness and emotion in the language of engineering and science. . . . A complex, brainy, genre-hopping joyride of a story, far more than the sum of its component parts, and smart and tragic enough to engage all regions of the brain and body.” —The New York Times Book Review
"A wild and inventive first novel. . . . has been compared to the novels of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Jonathan Lethem, and the fact that such comparisons are not out of line says everything necessary about Yu's talent and future." —Portland Oregonian
"Bends the rules of time and literary convention." —Seattle Weekly
"Littered with pop culture references, complex physics and meta-fictional devices, Yu’s novel is SF—but not as we know it. . . . Awitty and plangent inquiry into the nature of memory." —The Financial Times
"A great Calvino-esque thrill ride of a book." —The Stranger
"Science and metaphor get nice and cozy in Charles Yu's How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. The novel joins the likes of Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story and Jillian Weise's The Colony, fiction that borrows the tropes of sci-fi to tell high-tech self-actualization narratives." —Portland Mercury
"A brainy reverie of sexbots, rayguns, time travel and Buddhist zombie mothers. . . . Packed with deft emotional insight." —The Economist
"If How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe contented itself with exploring that classic chestnut of speculative fiction, the time paradox, it would likely make for an enjoyable sci-fi yarn. But Yu's novel is a good deal more ambitious, and ultimately more satisfying, than that. It's about time travel and cosmology, yes, but it's also about language and narrative – the more we learn about Minor Universe 31, the more it resembles the story space of the novel we're reading, which is full of diagrams, footnotes, pages left intentionally (and meaningfully) blank and brief chapters from the owner's manual of our narrator's time machine. . . . Yu grafts the laws of theoretical physics onto the yearnings of the human heart so thoroughly and deftly that the book's technical language and mathematical proofs take on a sense of urgency." —NPR
"How to Live Safely is a book likely to generate a lot of discussion, within science fiction and outside, infuriating some readers while delighting many others." —San Francisco Chronicle
"Douglas Adams and Philip K. Dick are touchstones, but Yu's sense of humor and narrative splashes of color—especially when dealing with a pretty solitary life and the bittersweet search for his father, a time travel pioneer who disappeared—set him apart within the narrative spaces of his own horizontal design. . . . A clever little story that will be looped in your head for days. No doubt it will be made into a movie, but let's hope that doesn't take away the heart." —Austin Chronicle
Praise from the UK:
"Superb: involving, clever, perky, properly science fictional and above all funny." —The Guardian
"Littered with pop culture references, complex physics and meta-fictional devices, Yu’s novel is SF—but not as we know it." —The Financial Times
"A sparkling yet poignant debut . . . buzzes with ideas, takes stylistic risks successfully, and is tightly focused on the emotional impact of the story. . . . Yu’s enthralling debut makes me yearn for his next one." —Scotland on Sunday
"Highly inventive and hilarious." —The Times
"Brimming with alternative universes, futuristic landscapes and gleeful metaphysics. . . . Yu’s spirit of invention is infectious, and there are moments of arresting emotion particularly when he is drawn into the altogether more earthly trials of parent—child relationships." —The Sunday Times
"Clever, rather geeky humor. . . . This book works best in it’s most conventional sections and the oddly moving accounts of the fictional Charles’s childhood and his yearning love for his father." —The Daily Mail