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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No one grows up wanting to be the time machine repair man.
But that's what Charles Yu, the narrator of this book by Charles Yu, author, did. Fiercely self-referential, Yu (the narrator) writes the book itself inside his time machine after he (the narrator) shoots himself (also the narrator, but an earlier version. Or do I mean a later one?)

Confused? Don't worry, just go with the story. It is gripping, funny,...
Published on 4 Oct 2010 by D. Harris

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow to start but good overall
I had no idea what to expect from this book. I knew nothing about it except that the author was also the main character, and I thought that would be an interesting concept. Having new read the book I can say that if someone asked me "Should I read this book" I'd say yes, but if someone asked me "Name a good book to read", this one would be somewhere in the middle of the...
Published on 13 May 2011 by Jc Carr


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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slow to start but good overall, 13 May 2011
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I had no idea what to expect from this book. I knew nothing about it except that the author was also the main character, and I thought that would be an interesting concept. Having new read the book I can say that if someone asked me "Should I read this book" I'd say yes, but if someone asked me "Name a good book to read", this one would be somewhere in the middle of the list.

It starts off quite slowly, and didn't really capture my interest until I'd worked through a few chapters. The chapters are relatively short, so I did find that I would say "Ok, one more chapter" but only after checking how many more pages that would entail.

Toward the far middle/end is really where it starts to get interesting and the concept becomes more clear. I don't want to mention any specific points in the book but if you read it you'll know the point in the story to which I am referring here. At the very end of the book it becomes even more clear and actually turns out to be a very good story and, not just that, but makes you look at the physical book itself in a new light. What's more, it was only toward the end that I realised the main character is not necessarily the character that the book is about.

My experience of this book was that, whilst reading it I was interested but not completely absorbed. The final quarter was very good and given enlightenment on the previous sections of the story that may have be bit of a slog when you don't see the bigger picture. The best way to describe it is that it gets better the more retrospect it allows you to have, and the more it expands on the seeds it plants in previous chapters. For a book about time travel, I wouldn't want it any other way.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A core of reality wrapped in a layer of science fiction, 21 July 2011
By 
S. Horrigan "Shaun" (London) - See all my reviews
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Charles Yu (the main protagonist in this story as well as its author) is a time machine repair man. Travelling in his Recreational (or as the main charater suggests, should that be re-creational) Time Travel Device model TM-31 accompanied by TAMMY a rather unhappy operating system and Ed, a dog who doesn't really exist, he fixes problems that other people have with or cause through their use of a time machine - but he is unable to fix his own problems.

The first thing to say about this story is that to me, it is not a real science fiction story. The author describes Minor Universe 31 as "a core of reality wrapped in a layer of science fiction" and to me that describes this whole book. The book is really about relationships. It describes and explores the authors relationships with himself, with TAMMY, with Phil (his manager who is actually just a piece of software - Microsoft Middle Manager Version 3.0), with his mother, but primarily with his father.

The time travel element of the story is just a plot device to enable the author to go back to key points in his relationship with his father and to observe (but not to participate in) them again. There is also a fair degree of discussion around determinism versus free will especially concerning the author becoming trapped in a repeating loop of time.

Personally I struggled with this story and at several points I almost gave up, but other reviewers mentioned that it gets better towards the end, so I kept on reading hoping it would get better. I also found some of the science fiction descriptive parts of the story to be unnecessary techno-babble that really added little if anything to the story.

On the presentation side, the Kindle presentation is exceptionally good - the story features quite a few drawings and diagrams and these are faithfully reproduced, also there are several links to footnotes that work perfectly too, even if they are quite easy to miss. Also, make sure you page back from the initial page that the Kindle first opens, as there are a few things before the first real page that you should read.

Overall: Two stars - Science Fiction is my first love in literature, but as I said earlier, I really don't class this as a sci-fi book. I finished the story eventually even though it took me almost a week as I could only cope with reading a few pages at a time. It did get slightly better towards the end but I certainly won't be reading it again and I would not recommend this story to other hard core science fiction fans.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No one grows up wanting to be the time machine repair man., 4 Oct 2010
By 
D. Harris (Oxford, UK) - See all my reviews
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But that's what Charles Yu, the narrator of this book by Charles Yu, author, did. Fiercely self-referential, Yu (the narrator) writes the book itself inside his time machine after he (the narrator) shoots himself (also the narrator, but an earlier version. Or do I mean a later one?)

Confused? Don't worry, just go with the story. It is gripping, funny, moving and sad. Yu (the narrator) lives in minor universe-31, which never got finished: the physics isn't complete, with the result that some parts - the poorer areas - aren't well rendered. Narrator Yu's father is an engineer, an immigrant to the science fictional world from Reality, whatever that is, a disappointed man (disappointed in his job, his marriage, in his relationship with his son) who fails to get the recognition he deserves and takes to his garage, where he invents the time machine, goes off in it and loses himself. Narrator Yu takes a job with the company that spurned his father, fixing recreational time machines. A kind of Dilbert crossed with Doctor Who, he lives in his TM-31, accompanied by TAMMY, an operating system with a poor self image, and Ed, the imaginary dog, working for Phil ("Microsoft middle-manager 3.0"). Yu's mother meanwhile lives for the hour - a repeated hour of her choosing, on permanent loop.

There are shades of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts here - not just the unfortunate TAMMY but also in the loopy metaphor-made literalness of it all, continued in some of the layout of the book (which is after all the book that narrator CY wrote... I think) as well, as oddly, another recent book, The Terrible Privacy Of Maxwell Sim - whose protagonist also has issues with his father and takes to the road with only an automated companion (in that case, a satnav. And that's another book in which the author appears as a character). Yet Yu (the author) manages to keep on top of this zaniness, managing a superb fusion of the science fictional with the troubling, touching story of narrator Yu and his father. There are some big themes here summed up by the title, to which a triumphant answer is given: "Enjoy the elastic present... Stretch it out, live inside of it."

It is difficult to give a fair description of this book, it's one of those you really, really just have to read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite what I expected, 17 Dec 2010
Besides not getting what I expected, I could not quite get it. It's one of the wierdest books I have ever read, and it's about a book of a man, a man's life (whatever form it takes, you'll get it when you read the book) and what has gone wrong with it.
The writing is surprisingly fluid to the style of the story, and it lets you experience the novel well. The structure is uncommon: whole pages written followed by gaps (blank pages), an occasional image and the slightly difficult hard to follow meanders of the protagonist's thoughts.
What I said is inconclusive (it's good; it's not good), but it's a beautiful book. All that's left is: read it, enjoy it and try to get something from it.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time Waits for No One, 13 Oct 2010
By 
Diziet "I Like Toast" (Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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Charles Yu, the hero of this story, is a Recreational Time Travel Device repairman. When people break down while travelling in their Recreational Time Travelling Devices, he goes and gets them back on the 'road'.

Too often, the reason people's recreational time travelling devices break down, though, is because they've been tinkering with them - trying to force the machines to go back to some point in their lives so they can try again, to make it better, to say sorry, to have another chance. They never can, though:

'People rent time machines. They think they can change the past. Then they get there and find out that causality doesn't work the way they thought it did. They get stuck, stuck in places they didn't mean to go, in places they did mean to go, in places they shouldn't have tried to go. They get into trouble. Logical, metaphysical etc. That's where I come in. I go in and get them out.' (p17)

His is a sad life. He has been away, idling his machine in 'Present-Indefinite' for ten years now. When he finally goes back to his tiny, one-room apartment, it seems he's only been away a day. In fact, a month's rent will probably cover his whole life.

The science the time travelling is based on is 'chronodiegetics' - a science that 'is the best theory of the nature and function of time within a narrative space' (p33). Perhaps the nature and function of time within the story which we are reading.

All of this returns to and revolves around the narrator's relationship with his father - the 'father-son' axis'. He knows he can't go back, like the people he frequently has to rescue, to try and make things o.k. but maybe a message is there.

It is a beautifully written book. In places, it's quite funny, but overall, there's a sense of inevitability, a pull between determinism and free will. It kind of reminded me of a claustrophobic version of Kurt Vonnegut's 'Chronosynclastic Infundibulum' - but small, intimate and introspective, the opposite of 'space opera'. A sort of self-deprecating introspection.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Start but flagged after the free sample, 9 Aug 2011
By 
Robert (Uxbridge, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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I liked the sample on the Kindle and on the strength of that bought the book. But, a bit like movie trailers, I found I had already seen the best the book could offer. The idea of a time/space machine that accessed alternate universes, some of which are fictional had shades of Heinlein's world as fiction. But only slightly. However, it transpires this is more of a reminiscence book about the relationship between a father and son. Not even that science fictiony.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hmmmm, 2 Aug 2011
By 
S. Hyles (UK) - See all my reviews
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Firstly let me say I haven't read past chapter 9 yet - and that is the problem.

Some of the reviews are saying the book gets better as it goes along, but my problem is that it is just too slow and hard going to get started.

I liked the "too few" encounters with other people and their interaction, but keep falling asleep with the monalogue and analysis of a failing family life. At times it feels like I'm stuck in the machine with the author and unlike him, I want to get out.

Perhaps I will update this review with a higher rating when I get to the end, but at present, I don't feel inclined to force this upon myself.

On the plus side - its 99p.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How to write science fiction brilliantly in this universe, 5 Feb 2011
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Superb stuff, a lesson for all those stylist authors of any genre trying to write a non-linear and sort of plot-less story. Very satisfying, sad in parts and very funny. Imagine Chick Palahniuk writing at his best and getting his head around time travel.The character uses his time machine in part to hide from the world and you will want to stay in there with him on a time loop, forever. Wonderful.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 5 Feb 2011
By 
P Coleman (Swansea, UK) - See all my reviews
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From all the critical acclaim I read about this book, I was expecting great things. However I was sadly disappointed, the writing is overly verbose for no justifiable reason, which interrupts the flow of the prose giving it the impression of being stilted. The plot again promised much from the blurb on the cover, but never seemed to expand beyond it, its a great concept but not very well fulfilled. Maybe if I hadn't had such high hopes for it I would have enjoyed it more.
All in all, this is a very clever book, and I can see why it received such attention from critics, but it wasn't an enjoyable book to read and left me with the impression that it was trying too hard to be a critically acclaimed book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Know what you are getting, 15 Jan 2013
By 
Tw Walton - See all my reviews
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I bought this on an impulse expecting it to be a kind of Terry Pratchett, Red Dwarf, Dianne Wynne Jones style comedy romp through some of the cliches of sci fi.

I know I could have read reviews beforehand, but in my defense the book is sold with a cartoony, bright cover full of rayguns, so I took the chance.

Having got half way through, I would describe this book as a "dysfunctional family drama" along the lines of Jonathan Franzen's "the Corrections", except it used sci fi metaphors to make its points about the emotionally troubled family it describes.

It seems basically to be a novel about a man's memories of his troubled life, cold father and sad mother, only with all his emotional problems described in sci fi illustrations.

I was not really in the mood for it, but if that sounds like your kind of thing go ahead, but know what you are getting.
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