How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

A weird array of tiny objects float through white space
Charles Yu
4
Sunday, May 17, 2015

The title of this book attracted me first with its quirky how-to beginning and then with an ending I wasn't sure what to make of. What's a science fictional universe, I wondered, and was hooked.

Well, I still might not be able to define that term succinctly, but I can tell you a few things I've learned. A science fictional universe is made up of narrative potential. It may contain lots of heroes, in which case you'll have high narrative potential and lots of stories bouncing around your universe. It may be a low narrative potential universe, where no one is quite good, and no one is quite bad and everyone wanders around wondering what the point of it all is. A science fictional universe is one where your pet dog might not actually exist (although that doesn't keep him from being ontologically valid). A science fictional universe is one where you might time travel or fall in love with your vehicle's AI system. You also might just become the protagonist of your own story.

This book is so unique, but it did remind me a lot of Ready Player One, with its youngish, relatable male protagonist, strange (but very capable) world-building, and overall scifi-cum-nostalgia feel. The narrative voice is a bit distracting at times, with its layers and layers of iterative thought built into almost every sentence. However, in some places that iteration is an echo for the idea of time loops and that just is brilliant. Built into this marvelous scifi geekout of a book is also some blazingly adept characterization of depression, adolescence and self-esteem. I'd recommend this book to fans of Ready Player One, science fiction and also anyone looking for a unique, adventurous read.

Amy F.

Written by Amy F.

Fun fact: I worked on a boat on the Mississippi one summer!