My rating: 4 of 5 stars
in my experience, there are generally two geographical locations for Charles Yu’s works: Out There on the Edge, and So Far Out There I Can’t Follow Him. this book is a mixed bag of both locations.
Out There on the Edge is a very very good place to be: reaching to that space is stretching, is moving arthritic thought processes, is growth, and a number of the stories in this book will encourage you, like a really good yoga teacher, to stretch on that path. plus, the stories can be very funny in places. in this book, “Standard Loneliness Package,” “Hero Absorbs Major Damage,” and “Open” fall into this category. these are lovely, lovely stories examining what it is to be a very small, specific human in a world subject to random pain and chaos. these stories in particular will give you cause to look into the abyss, and discover what it might mean to you (if meaning is to be had).
So Far Out There I Can’t Follow… please note that i accept that it is a personal limitation that i can’t follow. i can’t fault Yu’s writing. it’s just, there is a limit to how hard i am willing to work in a story, and Yu sometimes exeeds my limits. “Troubleshooting,” “Inventory,” and “The Book of Categories” end up just… puzzling me.
note: i am a big-time Yu fan. i loved How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, even when i felt i couldn’t quite get a grip on what space i was exploring. that book, like this book of short stories, sometimes left me feeling unmoored, and that was quite ok. the best books leave one feeling that there was something there, something that the author was trying to tell you or at least point you in the direction of, that signifies. if a book leaves me thinking, so much the better. it’s only, sometimes i fear i am not smart enough to follow.