Review ~ Sorry Please Thank You: Stories

Sorry Please Thank You: Stories by Charles Yu

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 . . . A company outsources grief for profit, their tagline: “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, filling 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 Sorry Please Thank You, we have resounding proof of a major new voice in American fiction. (via Goodreads)

I picked up this book, figuratively at least, after reading a rather dismal drawing room “thriller” set in the late 1800s. I needed something different and I found it. The thing I kept thinking as read Sorry Please Thank You is, “These stories are for me. ” Me, being defined as a pushing-40 product of the 1980s technology boom. Cable TV, VCRs, and personal computers gave my generation the ability experience the stories we enjoyed more easily than ever before. Gaming and BBSes gave us the ability to share our own stories more easily than ever before. And all these things have led us to asked slightly different questions about our lives.

This book has helped me further my view of what YA fiction is because Sorry Please Thank You is not. YA asks a certain set of questions: “Who am I? What is my place in this world? What is expected of me? Who will I love? Who will love me?” These questions are well and good, but they are sort of first order questions. The next set of “questions” isn’t what YA is about: “Wait, this is who I am? I’m not too sure about the place I’ve chosen in my world. And I’ve pretty much blown any expectations that anyone has had of me. I love that person though. And I sincerely hope that person loves me too (’cause they say they do…)” It’s not quite mid-life crisis, but it’s the sort of thing that rattles around a pushing-40 Gen-Xer’s mind on occasion.

Yu has a light touch with his stories. There are plenty of geek culture references and science fiction tropes (though many, many less than Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One), but it’s the characters and their place in the world that are the focus of the stories. As it should be. My favorite of the collection is “Hero Absorbs Major Damage.” Yu looks at destiny and choice and the amazing amount of insecurity that even a hero might face within the structure of characters in a computer RPG. It’s a really good tale. If I were one of those voter/nominators for sci-fi literature awards, I’d put Charles Yu’s name in the hat.

Genre: Speculative fiction short stories.
Why did I choose to read this book? Originally entered a give-away for it on Goodreads, it sounded good.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes!
Craft Lessons: A had a bit of a realization about YA/non-YA, but other than that I just sat back and relaxed and enjoyed the stories.
Format: Used Overdrive’s browser-based reading app, which was pretty nice.
Procurement: Greater Phoenix Digital Library

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