I have a couple of quibbles with this book, and I shall get them out of the way first. Well, mainly because I really like the book.
Firstly, the paperback edition that I have has a bright pink back cover. I don’t like the colour pink, and I don’t think it does anything for the story. The front cover has a load of ray guns, which are cute (not my word… seriously, google the book + ray guns, and you’ll see what I mean), which works in a pop-art kinda way.
Secondly (and lastly), the title, though effective and quite reflective of the story, is hard to remember accurately. I’ll put this down to my personal brain incompetency. Since I bought the book, I’ve referred to it in a variety of renditions of titles, ranging from ‘How to live in a science fictional world’ to ‘How to live safely in science fiction’. The gist is there, but seriously, nine words for a title… :)
Quibbling over, now for the juicy bit. What did I think about it?
It made me sad, inspired me to be a better person, and gave me hope that the world can get better. Now, I think this is pretty heavy-going for a science fiction novel that’s also fun, entertaining, and has some cool concepts of time travel.
“Most people I know live their lives moving in a constant forward direction, the whole time looking backward.”
I’ve recently been broadening my science fiction reading into Asian writers more, and I’m excited to find immigrant themed ‘cultural literature’ appearing in the science fiction genre. I’ve always found it difficult to stomach cultural writings, especially when it is about the Chinese diaspora, but I think with the science fiction world, it makes it much more palatable.
The references to the protagonist’s Chinese family are subtle, but cosy. They’re not in your face – just there in the background, for those who are happy to plunge into the world willingly.
With simple language, Yu quickly pulls you into this mad world of his where time-travel runs on your perception (don’t ask, just read the book). He tells the story of a family who is like many of ours – with its own issues, lack of communications, sprinkled with equal amounts of regrets and hopes.
“Enjoy the elastic present, which can accommodate as little or as much as you want to put in there. Stretch it out, live inside of it.”
Much like Only Forward, it makes us consider who we are, how we act and react in our world, and how much of that is down to our control. At the end of the day, we are our past, as well as our future, and all we can do, is to do our best right now.
I can’t wait to sample more of Yu’s writings, and am keeping my eyes peeled and ears to the ground for more Asian SF, so do ping me if you’d like to recommend any!