Monday, September 16, 2013

#603. How to Read Safely in a Science Fictional Book

Another major aspect of my recent road trip was reading books (which should be fairly obvious to anyone who's been reading this blog recently).

Now, I'm not stepping on the toes of Armchair Squid's Cephalopod Coffeehouse, because September's topic will be one of my all-time favorite writers, Roberto Bolano.  Instead I'll talk briefly about one of the books I read on the road trip.

That would be Charles Yu's How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.

It's genius, it really is.  It's the literary version for me of Tarsem's masterful film The Fall.  If you've read my thoughts on this movie before, you may be aware that I associate it as the next level of The Princess Bride, something a little more intricate and perhaps emotionally resonant.  It's become far and away one of my favorite films.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, or HTLSIASFU (which doesn't make it any less of a mouthful!), is likewise analogous to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  Yes, the Douglas Adams cult favorite.

I became a fan of H2G in high school, when it spread like a rash as something everyone had to read (which was a mood that swept through successive generations, because there was a locker forever emblazoned with someone's dedication to Milliways).  (I really need to read the whole series again.)  I'm one of the few people who fell immediately and deeply in love with the 2005 Hammer and Tongs film.  And I continue to add to my Douglas Adams experience to this day because of it.

Chances are I don't need to explain too much about what H2G is.  HL2SFU (which will be my abbreviation of the abbreviation of the album of of the soundtrack of the film of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, I mean the Charles Yu book) needs a little more introduction, however.

HL2SFU is brilliant.  It's a metatextual book (which makes it a little like a Grant Morrison comic in prose), so there's a certain amount of geekery involved (Han Solo is discussed) on any number of levels.  There are clever secondary characters who are real characters, eve if most of them are imaginary or are otherwise not really there.  The title book is also a book within the book, which is one reason why I make the H2G comparison.

But the real reason I make the comparison to my analysis of The Fall is that HL2SFU is really about the main character's efforts to reunite with his father.  Forget the metatextual elements.  The whole thing becomes a giant metaphor about trying to find a way to reconcile with one's past.  It's a lot like the best emotional moments from Futurama, really.

I couldn't recommend Yu's book enough.  I love H2G, but I think I've found my new favorite version of that story.



Sounds interesting. I am a big fan of Douglas Adams. I'll have to give HTLSIASFU a try. Thanks for the review.

Tony Laplume said...

Not a problem!


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