From the National Book Award–winning author of Interior Chinatown, comes a hilarious, heartbreaking, and utterly original collection of short stories.
A big-box store employee is confronted by a zombie during the graveyard shift, a problem that pales in comparison to his inability to ask a coworker out on a date . . . A fighter leads his band of virtual warriors, thieves, and wizards across a deadly computer-generated landscape, but does he have what it takes to be a hero? . . . A company outsources grief for profit, its slogan: “Don’t feel like having a bad day? Let someone else have it for you.”
Drawing from both pop culture and science, Charles Yu is a brilliant observer of contemporary society, and in Sorry Please Thank You he fills his stories with equal parts laugh-out-loud humor and piercing insight into the human condition. He has already garnered comparisons to such masters as Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams, and in this new collection we have resounding proof that he has arrived (via a wormhole in space-time) as a major new voice in American fiction.
In his new story collection, Yu (How to Live Safely in a Science Fiction Universe) draws from both sci-fi and literature to conjure a world of emotionally stunted people, unable or unwilling to cope with reality and the love or loss that it entails. With somewhat mixed results, the book charts eclectic territory, from a zombie in a megamart to a new pharmaceutical drug that generates a sense of purpose, and explores retreats from reality and emotion. In "Standard Loneliness Package," Yu imagines a technology that transfers guilt, heartbreak, and other bad feelings onto the employees of an "emotional engineering firm" based in India. In "Adult Contemporary," which recalls George Saunders, a man trying to buy a new life realizes that he's a character in someone else's story. Less successful stories delve into the workings of fiction itself; Yu wrestles with ethics as he imagines himself as a character struggling against his author in "Human for Beginners." At their best, the tales amusingly send up American consumer culture, but Yu's fondness for self-reference and literary games leads to some dead ends. While Yu's imaginative allegories are mostly too obvious to be genuinely thought provoking, they're nonetheless an impressive sendup of contemporary life.
A book that definitely introduced me to new ways of seeing the world and made me think. Not a downer. Good sci-fi.