by Charles Yu
“Third Class Superhero” might be the most straightforward story in this collection. Which is odd only because it’s mostly about Moisture Man (yeah, about as impressive as he sounds) and how probably good people wind up doing not so good things in the quest to… do good.
Yu writes stories about mothers; about families, about quiet, desperate people. “Man of Quiet Desperation Goes on Short Vacation” is one of the stories about quiet desperate people, but it’s not the only one, and it’s also about marriage. “Two-Player Infinitely Iterated Simultaneous Semi-Cooperative Game with Spite and Resolution” was not about marriage, but I expected it to be.
So Yu has some surprises, beyond questionable super hero power-endowed characters. There are the people stretched out across space that live nearly infinite lives; there are emotions statistics, there is even realism, of a sort. There is a story called “Autobiographical Raw Material Unsuitable for the Mining of Fiction” which does manage nevertheless to be a story.
That last story explicitly provokes the thought, but it wasn’t the first time while reading this book that I felt as if the stories were outlines for potential stories. It wasn’t a bad feeling; it was more like Yu was playing storyteller in a way that invited me as reader to play storyteller a bit, too. It’s a bit speculative and occasionally disorienting — and taken as a large dose, in danger of being too clever by half — but I liked it. Recommended.