“We trudge through the Bog of Uncertainty...”
– “Hero Absorbs Major Damage,” Sorry Please Thank You by Charles Yu
But ultimately that is why I enjoyed Sorry Please Thank You and will undoubtedly read it again. Yu’s style is intelligent, imaginative, and really pushes the boundaries of narrative fiction. It is, at points, science fiction, metafiction, and experimental fiction. “Note to Self,” for example, is essentially a rambling dialogue a man has with his other selves throughout the multiverse.
This isn’t “safe” writing by any means – there is a powerful sense of creative freedom in Yu’s stories.
My favorite story in this collection was “Hero Absorbs Major Damage,” an allegorical look at reality (or unreality) that follows a guy who is immersed in a sword-and-sorcery role-playing game that has been going on for what seems like eternity. When the unnamed hero and his group – which includes two mages, a swordsman, and a thief – fall short of completing their quest and are faced with death on a sprawling battlefield, the hero, after experiencing a bizarre revelation, gains invaluable insight into his place in the game – and the outside world.
“First Person Shooter” was also memorable. Two employees working the graveyard shift at a WorldMart – a superstore that is the size of three city blocks – discover a zombie woman in Toiletries and must decide on how to deal with the brain-dead consumer…
This collection has received some less than favorable reviews but, more me, it’s laudable. It's about loss and loneliness and understanding that we don't have all of the answers and being okay with that. It's about having the courage to engage with reality.
In a genre that supposedly embraces intelligent speculation, imagination, and innovation – exploring the boundaries of the genre – that is exactly what Yu is doing. Science fiction fans who gravitate towards the avant-garde will find this collection intriguing, those who enjoy more conventional storylines may chose to look elsewhere.
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulgoatallen and get all the latest Barnes & Noble book news from @BNBuzz.