No Happy Nonsense

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe / Charles Yu


February 10th, 2023 | Quick Thoughts

Charles Yu is a time machine repairman living in a science fictional reality. He's depressed, choosing to live inside his own time machine which is stalled out in the present-indefinite time setting, allowing himself to exist in a sort of non-time as compared to everyone else around him. This creates the effect of years passing by for him, but only a day would pass by for everyone else when he reenters conventional time.

His father had created one of the first time machines in their garage with the help of Charles, but his father was unable to push his dream into any kind of wide-scale reality. At some point, his father leaves and does not return, lost somewhere in time.

His mother, in her sixties, has choosen to live in a one hour time loop of her choosing, a service offered by some enterprise or some such. Charles cannot afford the 90 minute loop for his mother, only the 60 minute loop. He feels sorry about this.

Charles needs to get some repairs done to his time machine, and when he goes to pick it back up at the designated time, a future version of himself appears, climbing out of the time machine. Despite knowing better, fear kicks in and Charles shoots his future-self, creating a time loop. And so, our story begins. And ends.

Elements of Looper, Interstellar, Inception and Her all cascade into this beautiful, timeless piece of one man's regrets of his life, his families life, his relationship with his father and his mother, the loves he never had, and the adventures he never got into. While steeped in meta-narrative and time travel science/science fiction, the story itself is smaller than one might expect, and more human and grounded than I was anticipating.

It was absolutely great though. I devoured this book in a day and a half, and thanks to the acknowledgments section have two more books to add to my list, as well as Charles Yu's second novel, Interior Chinatown which based on the little blurb for it, sounds fantastic.


Filed Under: Reviews