Life in a Box
In Yu's phantasmagorical, somewhat allegorical tale, his main character, Yu himself, spends a lot of time in boxes. Yu actually spends time in his novel talking about how often he says box. He shares with the reader that his use of the word "box" is not because he lacks the literary talent to use different words or synonyms that pack a punchier punch; no, he repeats the word box almost like a litany because of the word's direct simplicity. He uses it to define a limited space. He underscores it to convey the limited sense of reality within a narrative that strives to create a universe without limits. It is this paradox that drives Yu & his readers down a path of self-exploration and discovery within a universe that is not what it seems.
On the surface one can view his work as as a slightly melancholy, science fantasy that moves at warp speed against a backdrop of scientific gibberish that sounds intelligent without having any way of knowing if it is or not. Populated with characters that may or may not exist except for their emotional attachment to Wu, the reader is left to wonder whether or not the story's arc will crash, burn or rise, phoenix-like from the ashes. And perhaps, somewhere within that confusion, lies the brilliance of his novel.
For what Yu does is to create a space within his box/our box that allows you to experience this time travel as a metaphor for our own inner fascination & fixation upon wanting to change what has passed, knowing full well, all along, that we cannot & that the exercise is & always will be, totally futile.