Charles Yu – Sorry Please Thank You

Charles Yu had only published two books prior to the publication of Sorry Please Thank You but has garnered enough acclaim and attention to last any successful fiction writer an entire career. Yu’s first was 2006’s reliably deadpan Third Class Superhero, the second was his first novel, 2010’s wonderfully chaotic How To Live Safely In A Science Fictional Universe. Yu’s rampant use of white space and short, declarative sentences leads one to skip gingerly through both books, stopping to savor his weird, heady mix of pop culture, science fiction and technology. Both books dripped with heavy sarcasm but also deep, undefined regret. Yu’s characters were the downtrodden and the misplaced, the technologically savvy but frustratingly love-starved; they were (mainly) men in search of women, scientists in search of cures, children in search of parents; people in desperate need of other people.

Yu relies on this successful formula once again for his second collection of stories, Sorry Please Thank You, an enjoyable if somewhat uneven jolt of fresh weirdness. Yu fills his new collection of stories with more displacement and human yearning then you could shake a stick at, there are also moments of pure, unadulterated genre joy. Yu shares a new, laugh-out-loud take on the stale zombie genre with “First Person Shooter”, the delightfully unsettling “Yeoman” would be perfectly paired with John Scalzi’s recent Redshirts and there is a well-told variation on the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day with the zany “Note To Self”, a story told entirely in “notes” between a narrator and him/her self. It’s digressions like these that both enhance and hamper Yu’s latest collection. A majority of the time the creative structuring leads one to bask in Yu’s delicious creativity but sometimes the story suffers instead, several of the stories in Yu’s book end up nowhere and the reader is left feeling cheated, almost as if Yu had set out to write something great but what was published was his intricate notes, the actual story isn’t fully fleshed out enough to matter. The longer, meatier stories in Sorry Please Thank You almost make up for Yu’s fumbles but the book ultimately feels longer than it is (even at a brisk 219 pages) and Yu has done better, let’s hope next time his editor is a little harsher.

– Paul Barbatano


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