Kendra's Reviews > Sorry Please Thank You: Stories
by Charles Yu
This is the first book by Charles Yu that I have read. He is fairly well known for his debut novel, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, which received accolades from respectable places, peoples, and institutions. I know nothing about this first book, but I hear The New York Times and Wired magazine seemed to like it.
Sorry Please Thank You: Stories is a different kind of animal. This is a book you'll either love or hate or feel absolutely nothing while reading. The individual stories are a mixed bag, a mélange of speculative, introspective, and straight-out science fiction. Some of the premises are highly original.
Consider "Open," a tale which defies explanation but nevertheless manages to be both touching and thought-provoking--and others are less so--I'm thinking of "Yeoman" here, a tale which tips its hat to both Star Trek and satire--and still others fall somewhere in between.
"First Person Shooter" mixes standard blue-collar disillusionment with zombies and WorldMart (no allusions there, at all ...).
"Hero Absorbs Major Damage" blurs the boundary between multiplayer gaming and the real world, but mostly serves as a vehicle to explore notions of selflessness and heroism.
"Note to Self" is a trippy journey through one man's discussion with himself (or himselves) in the multiverse.
"Standard Loneliness Package," on the other hand, explores the ramifications of out-sourcing our feelings to others, and the problems with distancing ourselves from our own experiences.
The only two stories that slipped the hook were, in my opinion, "Designer Emotion 67" and "Sorry Please Thank You," the final and titular short story. "Designer Emotion 67" is humorous, but fell flat mostly because it goes boldly where so many others have gone before--and unlike "Yeoman," which is similarly unoriginal, it doesn't give us a central character to empathize with. "Sorry Please Thank You" is a suicide note left in a bar, blurring the line between the character-as-narrator and Yu-as-narrator. I didn't not like it because it wasn't deep, or because it didn't bring up important questions about identity and experience, but because it was a dissonant note amongst the other stories--a humorless way to conclude a series that is generally upbeat.
In general, I enjoyed this collection of short stories. I'll be bookmarking a couple of them for use in future syllabi. At his best, Yu shares a love of absurdity with Douglass Adams, and an affinity for blunt irony with Philip K Dick. At his worst, Yu is still far from being a poor writer. I recommend Sorry Please Thank You: Stories to the casual science fiction lover--given its internal diversity, this book may serve as a good litmus test for the varieties of science fiction literature out there.