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Third Class Superhero

3.48  ·  Rating Details ·  582 Ratings  ·  104 Reviews
Charles Yu experiments with form and genre to explore the stories we tell ourselves while navigating contemporary life. In "Third Class Superhero," a would- be good guy must come to terms with the darkness in his heart. A couple living in the Luxury Car Commercial subdivision in "401(k)" are disappointed when their exotic vacation turns into a Life Insurance/Asset Manageme ...more
Paperback, 173 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2006)
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Thurston Hunger
Oct 17, 2010 Thurston Hunger rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Yu Mother, although that sounds worse than it should
I heard Yu on the radio, and decided to check out some of his work. The science student lapsing to fiction is always hard to pass up (wish there were more lapsing the reverse direction, but that is definitely upstream if not in fact illegal, and "The Kite Runner" doesn't count).

Anyways, my short review here is: Omni Magazine, wherefore art thou?

Yu's extremely short stories are ideas teased out like cotton candy to occupy a larger space than they will fill inside you once you've devoured them. If
Aug 13, 2011 Ryan rated it really liked it
It is really hard for me to describe my feelings about this book. Yu writes well, and each of these short stories are heart-wrenching, sometimes funny, emotionally disturbing, and extremely honest. Many of them struck a cord in my heart, revealing the ordinariness of life and the way we often mask it, living superficially. So to borrow Frederick Barthelme's words from the back cover, "It's a delight to read someone who realizes that life in the world is not as simple as it is often made to seem. ...more
Nov 16, 2014 wrench rated it liked it
Shelves: borrow-my-books
I feel like I forgot to read the back and then in my vagueness failed to realise that this is short stories... Anyway, long story short I only like short stories when I know they are about to happen.
I think maybe it was because the first story read like it was setting up an entire novel and I was expecting an entire novel that made me disappointed.
But also, there are some really good stories in it.
I think it's difficult to really say much about books of short stories because they are individual
Sep 08, 2012 John rated it it was amazing
Fine Literary Debut from One of Our Best Young American Writers

Inventive, smart and funny immediately come to mind with regards to "Third Class Superhero", the debut short story collection from Charles Yu, which playfully mixes genres as diverse as scientific technical writing, mainstream fiction, plays, comic books, and fantasy. The title story itself is well worth the price of admission for this short story collection; a melancholy saga about a would be superhero's struggle to gain respect amo
May 14, 2008 Amanda rated it really liked it
_Third Class Superhero_ is a stellar debut collection of short stories from Charles Yu. Yu's style is really fresh and intelligent. Most of the stories read as hybrids texts: think short story crossed with tv script, math equation, commercial or brand ad, and prose poem. Sometimes, I felt, though, that the style overtook the story such as in "401(k)" and "The Man Who Became Himself." The highlights in this collection are "Third Class Superhero,"My Last Days As Me," "Realism," and "Autobiographic ...more
Alex V.
Sep 06, 2014 Alex V. rated it really liked it
As an undergrad armed with having taken a 2000-level philosophy AND a 2000-level psychology course, I wrote a short play called "i & me & Superman." It featured no scenery and stage directions like (i stands at the lip of the stage silent for 5 min.) It was an attempt at rendering a 19-year-old's totally unique self-image crisis as abstracted drama. It was never staged. Also (spoiler) turns out i, me and Superman are all the same person named Nobody.

I mention this because the stories in
Apr 02, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it
Apart from the opening title story none of the protagonists in this collection of short stories have more than two dimensions, not that Moisture Man is particularly deep but at least he has a name. The protagonist in ‘Problems for Self-Study’, for example, is simply referred to as ‘A’ as in:

A is on a train traveling due west along the x-axis at a constant velocity of seventy kilometres per hour (70km/h). He stands at the rear of the train, looking back with some fondness at
Thiago Rosa
Jul 31, 2014 Thiago Rosa rated it it was ok
This book was a curve ball if I ever saw one.
The first story, the titular Third Class Superhero, uses the best weapons Yu has at his disposal - the appeal to artistic melancholy, the almost poetic prose and the pathetic (and completely relatable) protagonist. The second story feels like a chapter in How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, which is good. However, after that almost all stories share a common thread of disturbing mother issues. It feels like the book is about mother is
Bored to Death book club
Charles Yu's first book "Third Class Superhero" is a striking science fiction short story collection, but not without its faults. Some of the tales were too abstract for me and went over my head. A good example of this is"Two-Player Infinitely Iterated Simultaneous Semi-Cooperative Game with Spite and Reputation". It was as obtuse as its title. I didn't understand the point of the game or the story. From what I understand, Player 1 can state either the truth or a lie and Player 2 has to decide i ...more
Andrew Liptak
Sep 03, 2010 Andrew Liptak rated it really liked it
A forthcoming book caught my eye last month: How To Live Safely In A Science Fictional Universe, by Charles Yu. It had a slick cover, and I got my hands on a copy to review. While I was waiting, I did a bit of background research on the author, coming up with only one other work to his name, Third Class Superhero, a collection of short stories. Yu, who was selected by the National Book Foundation as one of the ’5 under 35′ authors to watch in 2007, and seems to be a promising writer to keep an e ...more
Feb 23, 2011 Jama rated it it was ok
In one extremely self-referential story in the short story collection, the narrator mocks realism and declares "I have to leave out the details, I have to find the essence, search for the missing middle. I have to keep this general. I have to find the secret at the center of our story. Then I will be able to tell it." That is a very good description of the stories contained in this collection.

You might remember the advice to "show, not tell" your story. I don't think Yu agrees. Maybe it's true t
Andi Alexander
Mar 04, 2013 Andi Alexander rated it it was amazing
Upon reading Third Class Superhero, two things happened: 1) I fell madly, deeply, acutely in love. 2) I became hideously angry at the world.. I assume due to a resentment toward the society we live in and the amount of people who would be left confused by Yu's short stories when they so obviously spell out the mundane parts of our every day lives... in the most creative ways possible.

To say Yu's book changed me would be an understatement. I felt as though I walked away a solid five years senior
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
I started out liking this book. By the end I was actually angry. The first story was very good. The second was as well, although I thought to myself, "some similar themes here." The third: "Hmm, this is a trend, same themes." The fourth: "Oh, this is different. Oh wait, here we are again." And so forth.

Every story in this collection covers all or most of the following topics: middle-aged angst, middle-aged emotional numbness, cookie-cutter middle-aged lives, disconnection with self that increase
Jan 04, 2008 Speedtribes rated it liked it
Here's a book I grabbed because of the really awesome cover.

This was well written, if a bit dry in the sense that almost every story was more exploratory with its form than its content. Taking in mind that the content mainly deals with mediocrity as seen in middle class, self-pitying men, it's actually a good thing that the 'tone' of the text is so removed from the emotional aspects. I'd have been disgusted with the indulgent emo long before I got past the second page, otherwise.

Technically, it
Apr 09, 2011 Nancy rated it liked it
How did this book find me, and, more to the point, how did I survive it?

I've turned 50? Check.

My mom is slipping toward the end her life? Check.

Now is a the time I should be telling stories to her, if not HER story? Check.

I don't know how to tell her story, much less end it? Check?

I know there are plot points in her life, in my life, I'd like to tie up in a satisfying narrative, but can't? Have faced there will always be things unsaid even though we're both alive and in touch and speaking? Chec
Abbey E
Jan 08, 2016 Abbey E rated it it was ok
A surprising blend of humor and candor with heavy genre influences, Third Class Superhero is a definitive collection of stories which showcase Charles Yu's unique and altogether captivating talent: expressing genuine, lifelike emotion (or lack thereof) in a believable fantastic setting.
Similar to another favorite of mine, Ready Player One, Third Class Superhero blends dry humor, depressing circumstances, and fantastical Science Fictional/comic book elements flawlessly. It follows those who want
Tyrannosaurus regina
This book caught me by surprise. I picked it up (for a certain value of picked it up that now applies to digital possessions) because it looked like it would be okay, and it was so very much more than okay. I love the experimentations with narrative and with structure and the very broad yet very exacting view of the world and the way it is and the way it could be.
Nov 17, 2011 David rated it liked it
A nice one day read while at home recuperating.

Most of the stories in this collection are clever and fun. Some are more fun and some are too clever. Charles is bright, no doubt about it, but times it has echos of pretension. His one story, Realism, is written discussing realism in a meta-meta fiction way. I get it - your smart. On the other hand there are some that his intelligence pays dividends. Both 32.05864991% (the percentage that is a maybe) and 401(k) are both intellectual but clever and
Jan 04, 2012 John rated it really liked it
Charles Yu's "Third Class Superhero" is a collection of short stories, with only the title first story in the superhero genre. This is a fine thing indeed, as Charles Yu is at his best when bending form, presenting stories as game manuals, mathematical story problems, advertisements, and other technical or cultural mediums that gain power when presenting emotional material. Charles Yu recalls David Foster Wallace's concern with with the individual at work, as well as exploring the strange union ...more
Aug 26, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it
As a literary nerd AND a superhero/comics geek, this book hits the spot. Like his later work, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, this book isn't really about superheroes or anything else so much as it is an examination of the way we see ourselves and the way we interact within our families, our friendships, and society at large. But then, a great many graphic novels and comic series examine this same issue, asking how we fit into the world and how we deal with our own strangenes ...more
Sep 09, 2014 Joey rated it liked it
I'm glad I read this, but I would recommend skipping it and going straight to his other short story collection Sorry Please Thank You, which is phenomenal.
Much of it reads like meta-fiction or exercises on creativity, though his voice for sentiment and sincerity is hardly lost in his realm of math and mirrors.
Worth a read if you're a big Yu fan, but doesn't compare to his other work.
John Lee
Aug 22, 2014 John Lee rated it liked it
Having read Charles Yu's debut novel, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, I knew that his short stories would be just as absurd and unconventional, but I don't think I went quite far enough with my expectations. Each story in this collection has a different quirk: some in the form, some in the content, some in the presentation. The short story format is ultimately well-suited to these eccentricities, as no experiment is long enough to get extremely tedious. The chances Yu takes d ...more
This really wasn't what I was expecting. I loved the first story (Third Class Superhero) and was expecting more like that.

What I got, with the exception of a couple of stories, is the impression of an author with mommy issues. The stories were either not fleshed out well, or consisted of really contrived writing.

The good:
Third Class Superhero
Problems For Self Study
32.05864991% (loved the idea of "maybe having a definite statistical probability)

The incomprehensible (to me)
Two-Player Infinitely
Michael Larson
Apr 08, 2013 Michael Larson rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating collection of stories that is comic and morose in equal measure. The deadpan presentation of even the most absurd scenarios brought to mind George Saunders or David Foster Wallace, but Yu definitely is a flavor all his own.

The stories feel like formulas for understanding the meaning of existence. Yu takes a potentially comedic premise (life as a sitcom, life as a lame superhero, etc.), and then treats it as realistically as possible, exposing the harsh reality underlying ev
Jul 27, 2012 Julie rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I read parts of all 11 short stories but only finished the last 3 in the book. Sometimes I like the way this author writes, but sometimes it feels like he keeps writing the same introspective story over and over. He has some really beautiful lines/wisdom in the last 3 stories. I remember one part about smiles in "Man of Quiet Desperation" on. p 139. I appreciated his calculations about probability and how men and women think differently about relationships in the story with the 32% title. The la ...more
Feb 22, 2015 Angela rated it liked it
An uneven collection of short stories. The first few were the strongest. Some interesting experiments with style (telling a story through a collection of math problems, for example).
Ketan Shah
May 14, 2012 Ketan Shah added it
Shelves: fiction
Reads more like a set of writing experiments than an actual short story collection. The title story is very good though. I preferred his novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe Proof . If you're looking for work that's eclecticv with some SF overtones you can also try Ted Chiang's Stories of Your Life and Others Stories of Your Life and Others
May 20, 2011 keatssycamore rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Paul Auster fans
This was a good collection. Although the stories are melancholy, there are still peppy/interesting structures to the stories & they're shot through with resigned humor. This makes it go down more pleasantly than perhaps it should given the author's depressive take on the world. Most of the stories also have a sci-fi theme and that helps leaven the literary themes which I sense formed the superstructure for the whole collection. It's a superstructure that, as a result of my own ignorance of t ...more
Apr 05, 2016 Fitz rated it really liked it
Very fun, very meta. The title story reminded me of George RR's Wildcards stories.
Ben Brackett
Dec 21, 2015 Ben Brackett rated it it was ok
There's a couple great, charming and weird stories, but then way too much just weird crap.
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Charles Yu lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Michelle, and their two children.

He has received the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award for his story collection Third Class Superhero, and he has also received the Sherwood Anderson Fiction Award. His work has been published in the Harvard Review, The Gettysburg Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Mississippi Review, and Mid-American Review, am
More about Charles Yu...

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“I felt melancholy, I felt joy, I felt dread, I felt a sadness so deep it cannot be described in words. I felt emotions that have not been given names, I felt emotions that have been given the wrong names, I saw what it meant to feel and I saw that it was all the same feeling and I felt big feelings, the old feelings, the ones before language, before the mind had language, before the mind had learned to tell a fake story called consciousness and developed anxiety when it invented time, and danger, and risk, and probability, and the future.” 6 likes
“Everyone is a recording to everyone else, a memory, a past transcript embedded in air or water or sound or light. No matter how close they are, they are not here. What they said, when they said it, it is not now.” 3 likes
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