I haven’t posted about books on this blog for quite a while, and I’m not sure why, since I’m reading as much as ever. Perhaps because my two most recent ‘big’ reads were Clarissa and The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which are both so vast that I felt there was nothing to say about them.
Anyways, I am continuing to read. Right now I’m listening to Red Rising and working my way, on Kindle, through the oeuvre of Michael Crichton. Yikes, I do not agree with many of his political views, and some of his books are downright uncomfortable to read. I just finished Rising Sun–a polemical novel, published in 1992, about how Japan was buying up all of America. The irony here is that it was published right before the great Japanese asset bubble burst, leading to fifteen years of stagnation. Where Crichton writes, in 1992, that it’s a certainty that Japan will soon be the largest economy in the world, we now live in a time where it’s become, while not irrelevant, at least something of an economic also-ran, behind not just China, but Korea as well. Anyways, I digress.
The point is I want to write about books again! But I thought I’d do it in a slightly different way. Because, the truth is I’m a shopaholic. I am addicted to discounted Kindle ebooks. It’s a problem. I subscribe to three separate ‘deal’ emails, and every day I browse all of them, looking for books that seem vaguely interesting.
It started as a lark, but it’s gotten to be something of a compulsion. I do find some good books this way (I particularly like when I find contemporary books that were not critical or commercial successes). Just glancing over the last few months of reading, I see that as a result of sales, I’ve read a very smart thriller (The Porkchoppers by Thomas Ross), an affecting and well-written work of women’s fiction (The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes) and a fast-paced military/suspense novel (Twilight’s Last Gleaming by Walter Wager). If it weren’t for Kindle and Audible deals, I would’ve encountered none of these books.
However, during the course of my browsing, I almost always come across at least one book I’ve already read that is fantastic, and I’ve decided that I’m going to attempt to create my own little irregularly-updated deal email, called THREE DOLLAR CLASSICS. Anyway, since at the moment nobody is signed up for my email list. I’m just going to announce it here: Right now Charles Yu’s debut novel, How To Live Safely In A Science Fictional Universe is on sale for $2.99.
This is a book that, oddly enough, escaped the attention of most science fiction fans, because it wasn’t published as a science fiction novel. This distinction–novels with science-fictional elements that aren’t classified as science fiction–seems to perplex many people, but it’s not too difficult to parse. The book wasn’t published by a sci-fi imprint, and it wasn’t shelved in the science fiction section. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine what major science fiction imprint would publish something like this novel (perhaps Tor, if it was written by Jo Walton). But the book isn’t actually too odd. It belongs to the category of playful metafictions that also have a heart (other practitioners of this craft: Ted Chiang, David Foster Wallace, Jorge Luis Borges).
Charles Yu, the protagonist of the novel, not incidentally has the same name as the author, but he is decidedly not the author. Rather he’s a parallel version of the man, living in a mirror universe. His job involves rescuing time travelers from themselves (or something like that, it’s been awhile since I read the book), but otherwise he leads something of a mundane life. He’s an everyman, who’s awash in longing for his long-missing dad, and he sets out on a search to find the man.
Like the best time travel stories, the novel looks in and around on itself, playing around with form and structure in a manner reminiscent of Empire Star or The Man Who Folded Himself, but unlike many modern self-aware fictions, the story doesn’t get lost in its own cleverness or metatextuality. What I remember most about the book is that it always remains firmly grounded in the reality of Yu’s loss and longing, and that, ultimately, is what carries you through all the jokes.
Anyway, for today only it’s just three dollars! Buy it! And if you want more THREE DOLLAR CLASSICS then you can always sign up for my newsletter. If you’ve already signed up, then you can update your sign-up by specifying if you want to get three dollar classics emails.