I realized a couple of years ago that not only am I not super-skilled at anything, I’m not even particularly good at being myself. ~Charles Yu

If I could travel back in time, I could

  • stifle a cruel Christmas morning comment I made to my mother
  • savor my volleyball team’s state championship a little more
  • avoid dating nearly everyone I’ve dated aside from my husband
  • visit my father right before he died and REALLY talk to him
  • wear my glasses that fateful night I broke my nose.

I can’t go back, though, and it is clear in Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, perils await those who time travel. Though time is not as linear as most humans perceive it, it is unwise to poke around in there too much and begin looping through one’s past.

Charles Yu is the protagonist of his own book; he is a time travel machine repairman searching for his father and avoiding relationships with everyone else, including his mother, his operating system, Tammy, and his real/not real dog, Ed. Yu’s father left his mother and child for another time and place, and Yu peers into the pockets of the past, present, and future to locate him. Yu discovers much about himself which has led to all his disconnections and near-misses.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe contains all the hallmarks of the hero’s journey. Yu even makes a reference or two or three to the great scifi hero saga Star Wars (as well as some references to other scifi flicks and authors, so nerds get pumped). This journey is what makes it accessible to those for whom scifi is made up of impossibly arcane terminology and  laughable movies such as  Ice Spiders and Mansquito on the Syfy channel. We are all searching in some fashion for our parents, our place, our purpose, ourselves.

Veronica K. Brooks-Sigler

Bookseller, Maple Street Book Shops


We’d love to hear about your other favorite time travel books!