Book Review: ‘Sorry Please Thank You’ By Charles Yu

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How do you follow a debut novel that was named one of Time magazine’s best books of the year? For Charles Yu the answer is Sorry Please Thank You, a breezy but fascinating collection of short stories.

In an interview during San Diego Comic-Con 2012, Yu revealed that the transition from writing his popular and widely praised book, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, to the short story format of Sorry Please Thank You was challenging. The author also admitted that not all of the stories turned out the way he had planned.

“Sometimes you write something and it’s just not what you thought it was going to be,” he said. Even so, Yu is pleased with the final product and readers will be too.

The collection of stories transports readers from futuristic earth to virtual reality and even into space. In every time and location the characters are searching for the same things: happiness and love. The fundamental nature of these desires helps keep Yu’s stories grounded even as some of them veer off into the more obscure and strange (an alien’s guide to Earth families, for example).

Yu’s love for science fiction is still very apparent and it works better in some stories than in others. Indeed he said himself, “There are some stories I like more than others.” He also pointed out that one of the advantages of a collection of short stories versus a novel is that there is something for everyone to enjoy. This holds true for Sorry Please Thank You.

Of the thirteen stories there are a handful that really standout, such as “Hero Absorbs Major Damage,” which will speak to gamers, and “Yeoman,” which will delight Star Trek fans. There’s also “Standard Loneliness Package” that details a world where we can outsource our undesired emotions to other people and “First Person Shooter,” a sweet and humorous take on zombies.

These stories, especially “Hero Absorbs Major Damage,” could have been full-length books in their own right and indeed Yu agreed that some of the stories have the potential to develop into their own novels. As it stands now though, Sorry Please Thank You is a fast, interesting and worthwhile read and further proof that Yu is set to remain a major part of the fiction world.

Enjoy a trailer for “Standard Loneliness Package” below and check out Sorry Please Thank You, which is available now from Pantheon Books.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Exc8txAwqB4?rel=0]

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