Sorry Please Thank You: Stories

The many fans of Charles Yu's first novel, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, can now enjoy more of the Yu "speculative experience" in his second collection of stories (after 2006's Third Class Superhero). "Standard Loneliness Package" is the best, envisioning a world where, thanks to an implant chip that allows one's consciousness to be transferred, people can pay an "emotional engineering firm" to offload their pain, emotional and physical, onto another person. Our narrator works at one of these companies; his day is filled with "something like a huge boot," an "infinite foot," stepping on his chest. In "First Person Shooter," a couple who work the graveyard shift at WorldMart encounter a "sort of pretty in a melancholy way" zombie woman who has misplaced a finger and becomes mesmerized by House of the Dead Two, showing in the television department.

Other stories introduce us to a couple encountering "door" (the word) in their living room, a man who wants to buy a room and a lifestyle from a company that sells such things and the suicide note of a person who has just left the room: "You're reading this, so it's too late. For me, I mean."

It's a mixed bag: some inventive stories surprise and amuse, others seem slight and forced. At its best, though, Sorry Please Thank You is a mix of science fiction, absurdist humor and Beckettian monologue, with storytelling techniques that twist narrative into a computer-esque objectivism; think Donald Barthleme's strangest pyrotechnics in a Philip K. Dick or Haruki Murakami world. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

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