January 31st, 2012


#11 How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

Every day in Minor Universe 31, people travel back in time in hope of changing the past. Unfortunately, changing the past is impossible, so it’s up to time machine repair man Charles Yu to sweep in and save time travelers in need. But there are moments in his past that he would like to change as well, such as finding his missing father. Then one day Charles runs into his future self. Without thinking, he shoots him in the stomach, trapping himself in a time loop that he knows will end in his death.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is a literary tongue twister, a non-linear time travel tale filled with more hard science and math then you’d expect to find in a book barely over 200 pages. If I could pick one word to describe this novel, it would be multi-layered. The reader is reading a book called How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu. In the book, the main character’s (also called Charles Yu) story is interrupted with chapters from a guide book called How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. During the story, Charles Yu the character meets a future Charles Yu who gives him a book also called How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe written by future Charles Yu, which present Charles Yu re-writes as he reads it. When you combine the many layers, and math with the author’s stream of conscious style which occasionally features run on sentences and paragraphs that go on for pages, you can see why this book was extremely difficult to pick up at times. Still, despite my regular frustrations with the style and content, I have to admit that I found the novel to be strangely fascinating.

I think what helped me appreciate this book is beneath it’s many layers is a very human story about family. As we explore Charles’s past, we learn about his complex relationship with his mother, his parents often tumultuous marriage, and the events which eventually lead to the discovery of time travel, and the disappearance of his father. It was these human elements that I connected to right away, and I often found myself wishing that they were less buried under the the big concepts of the book. I also found I enjoyed many of the sci-fi elements of this novel. I found the secret behind time travel to be a nice change from what I’m used to reading, and I loved the personalities of the computer program that Charles interacts with (even if they disappointingly appeared to have more personality than the at times bland protagonist). Since the main character of the book was named after the author I found myself pondering one question over and over again, how much is Charles Yu’s life and experiences is based on Charles Yu? This is a question I often don’t let myself indulge in while reading fiction, as if too often will cause me to try to answer unanswersble questions such as “what is the author trying to say?” In this case, it’s unavoidable.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe was a unique reading experience. I found it frustrating to read, but ultimately enjoyed it. I found the story and concepts to be fascinating, but am not sure if I would recommend it to others. I’m happy I read it, but will probably not pick it up again. Either way, I’m happy that it was picked as a selection for calico_reaction’s bookclub as I’m not sure I would have picked it up on my own.

Rating: three and a half stars
Length: 239 pages
Source: Lewiston Public Library
Other books I've read by this author: this is my first

Next I will be reviewing Hidden by Kelley Armstrong

xposted to temporaryworlds, bookish, and goodreads

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

Beautiful sparkly pretty Magical Angel Boyfriend look at the pretty WHEEEE!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Little, Brown & Company, 2011, 418 pages

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages - not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers - beautiful, haunted Akiva - fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Warning: This book annoyed me. Hence, much profanity.

Collapse )

Verdict: THIS IS A MAGICAL ANGEL BOYFRIEND BOOK! Okay, I just had to get that out there to warn anyone else who, like me, stupidly thought it was something else. If you like Magical Angel Boyfriend books, I think that you will love The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, because the writing and the worldbuilding is very good for what it is. If you don't -- well, I really did love Laini Taylor's writing, just not her themes or what the story turned out to be, so I'll wait until she writes something less likely to make me headdesk at misguided expectations.

Non-fiction books about Scotland?

I’d like recommendations for non-fiction books (or academic essays!) about Scottish history and politics. I don’t have a particular time period in mind, but the qualities I am looking for in a recommendation are:

- books that are not anti-Scotland (though not necessarily pro-Scotland either, Scotland-neutral is just fine)
- books that don’t gloss over less savoury aspects of Scottish history
- books that are not written by David Starkey (I have Starkey issues)
- books that are interesting, informative and enjoyable to read

Hopefully, you are currently thinking of a book; if so, then I am looking forward to your recommendation(s). If not, then I still thank you for taking the time to read this request.