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

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

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A Maxim Jakubowski Best Science Fiction selection.

A post-modern discourse on SF itself, in the guise of a Douglas Adams-like fantasy involving a computer with low self-esteem, an imaginary dog who answers to the name Ed, a software boss called Phil and the business of repairing time machines in a world of alternate universes. Add a book that explains it all which the protagonist keeps wrapped up in brown paper and you have an explosion of questions, dilemmas and a frantic race in a myriad directions. Fascinating, challenging and a hoot to boot.

If you like Charles Yu you might also like to read books by Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and Robert Rankin.


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

With only TAMMY - a slightly tearful computer with self-esteem issues - a software boss called Phil - Microsoft Middle Manager 3.0 - and an imaginary dog called Ed for company, fixing time machines is a lonely business and Charles Yu is stuck in a rut. He's spent the better part of a decade navel-gazing, spying on 39 different versions of himself in alternate universes (and discovered that 35 of them are total jerks). And he's kind of fallen in love with TAMMY, which is bad because she doesn't have a module for that. With all that's on his mind, perhaps it's no surprise that when he meets his future self, he shoots him in the stomach. And that's a beginner's mistake for a time machine repairman. Now he's stuck in a time loop, going in circles forever. All he has, wrapped in brown paper, is the book his future self was trying to press into his hands. 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 save him.


'Charles Yu is a tremendously clever writer, and How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is marvellously written, sweetly geeky, good clean time-bending fun.'
Audrey Niffenegger

'A complex, brainy, genre-hopping joyride of a story' - New York Times

'Brimming with alternative universes, futuristic landscapes and gleeful metaphysics - Yu's spirit of invention is infectious.' - Sunday Times

'A man with a time machine shoots a future version of himself... The old time-travel paradox becomes a witty and plangent enquiry into the nature of memory. It's SF - but not as we know it. - Financial Times If sci-fi is the literature of ideas, Charles Yu is already a master of the form: there are more fascinating, bizarre and clever concepts per page than most writers manage in an entire novel.' - Time Out

'A fantastic time travel story, one that blends fiction and reality, a sharp style of storytelling that blew my mind... this is one of the most important books of the genre to be published this year' - SF Signal

'Highly inventive and hilarious' - The Times

'pretty superb: involving, clever, perky, properly science fictional and above all funny... a most excellent debut' - The Guardian

'A complex, brainy, genre-hopping joyride of a story, far more than the sum of its part, and smart and tragic enough to engage all regions of the brain and body' - International Herald Tribune

'Buzzes with ideas, takes stylistic risks successfully, and is tightly focussed on the emotional impact of the story... Yu's enthralling debut makes me yearn for his next one - Scotland on Sunday

'A small wonder of a novel.' - Time Magazine, 'Top 10 Books of the Year 2010'

About the Author

Charles Yu was born in Los Angeles. His fiction has been published in a number of magazines and literary journals. In 2007, he was selected by the National Book Foundation as one of its '5 Under 35' a program which asks five previous National Book Award fiction Winners and Finalists to select one fiction under 35 writer whose work they find particularly exciting. Yu was selected for the honour by Richard Powers. This is his first novel.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st May 2011


Charles Yu

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Corvus an imprint of Atlantic Books


256 pages


Science Fiction
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Science fiction



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