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. (There's a neologism there, I know it....) How to Live Safely is about storytelling and memory and seizing control of the narrative thread of one's own life. Also, there are sexbots.

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Charles Yu the character (marginally distinct from Charles Yu the author) lives in a teeny tiny time-travel machine, his only company a nonexistent dog and an operating system ("TAMMY") that he's got a little crush on. He is a time-machine repairman; most often, his job is simply to explain the self-consistency rules that prevent people from going back in time and changing the past. ("The universe just doesn't put up with that. We aren't important enough. No one is.") His first call comes from "SKYWALKER, L"—Linus Skywalker, a nine-year-old who tries to use his time machine to go back in time and kill his father. And speaking of daddy issues, it happens that the book is largely concerned with the protagonist's efforts to find his own father, amid the many perils of time and space.

Yu's brand of sci-fi might be more palatable to fans of David Foster Wallace than fans of Heir to the Empire (note: Star Wars joke)—or maybe Yu is one of just a handful of authors to smartly acknowledge that there's more overlap there than people like to think.

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