I can’t remember why I wanted to read Charles Yu, but I must have had a reason. After finishing up the Old Man’s War books, I had a “not-so-serious-science-fiction” itch to scratch and picked up this one as the best looking of the author’s works at Barnes and Noble.
I don’t know if this book just wasn’t my cup of tea in general or if it just didn’t satisfy my craving for John Scalzi’s brand of “take a trope through to its logical conclusion” sci-fi, but this book left me cold.
I think part of it might be a complete lack of engagement with the characters. “Charles Yu” the protagonist (not Charles Yu the author, the naming being a bit of stylistic cutesiness I have NEVER liked despite enjoying metafiction in general) frequently acts like a jerk, and his absent sad-sack father and detached mother aren’t characters you’re excited to spend time with. The AI manager and operating system TAMMY don’t have much to do, and I feel like Yu (the author) tells us rather than shows us that they have complex relationships with the protagonist.
The time travel structure isn’t terribly novel, but it’s enjoyable enough, but the book that Future Yu gives Past Yu (the survival guide of the title) having excerpts within the story didn’t work for me as a narrative device, it just added unneeded complexity when a time-travel-paradox laden story like this needs as few distractions as possible to keep everything straight.
I’m willing to try another Yu book, but I wish I could remember which one made me seek him out in the first place. This one wasn’t for me.