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How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, By Charles Yu

Too clever by half, this is time travel – but not as we know it

Charles Yu is a disaffected mechanic who fixes time machines for a living.

One morning he encounters a "future" Charles Yu – who happens to be writing a book called How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe – and promptly murders himself, a move that leaves our hero marooned in a metaphysical limbo. "This is annoyingly cryptic," Charles muses. Well, quite. Although there are poignant moments, as he revisits his past and imagines how things might have been different – time travel is described, beautifully, as "a theory of regret" – for the most part this bewildering debut novel is rather too clever for its own good.