A few weeks ago, I posted a list of recommendations for people who like Aimee Bender, and Charles Yu’s Sorry Please Thank You was on that list. I’ve been eagerly waiting for today to arrive so that I can finally talk about the book in more detail, because fellow geeks and science fiction fans are sure to be pleased with this short story collection! Split into four sections — “Sorry,” “Please,” “Thank You,” and “All of the Above” — the quirky stories range from funny to downright melancholy.
I was immediately grabbed by the first story, “Standard Loneliness Package.” At a call center in Bangalore, employees are hired to feel their customers’ pain for them. Funerals are a popular source of income, though heartbreak, painful medical procedures, and even sitting in on a kid’s recital are all possibilities. It’s a love story with a futuristic twist, yet it feels very present day. It also brings a whole new dynamic to the ethics of outsourcing!
A more lighthearted (and very short) story that I enjoyed was “First Person Shooter.” A couple of employees are working the graveyard shift at WorldMart, and the guy is trying to work up the nerve to ask his coworker out on a date. She has other things on her mind, though, namely the zombie who has just shown up in cosmetics.
One of my favorite stories was “Open,” about a couple who returns to their apartment one day to find the word “door” floating in the center of their living room. When the word actually becomes a door, the couple has a decision to make: will they go through it or not? Though the story has its surreal elements, it’s really about the couple’s relationship. I thought it was beautifully written; this is also the story I most had in mind when I created my Aimee Bender list!
And finally, the last story I’ll discuss is “Yeoman,” which I found the funniest if only because I’m a Trekkie and pictured the story with the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation in mind. The story is about a team of officers on a spaceship that goes on an away mission each week. On Mondays, the members of the away team are announced, but being picked as yeoman is tantamount to a death sentence because the yeoman always dies in freak circumstances by the end of the week. As the week drags on, the yeoman anxiously chronicles the last days of his life, including his observations of what really goes on during away missions (let’s just say the captain has, uh, interesting proclivities).
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There were a couple of stories I didn’t much care for, but the collection as a whole is fun and different. Sorry Please Thank You is Charles Yu’s third book, following his successful novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, so I think that will be the next book of his that I’ll check out.
On that note, io9 recently published one of the stories from this book, “Hero Absorbs Major Damage,” so check that out if you’re interested (that story was actually one of my least favorites from the collection, but I’ve seen other reviews where it was among the reviewers’ favorites — I suspect these reviewers are gamers).
Sorry Please Thank You: Stories was released on July 24, 2012 by Pantheon Books, an imprint of Knopf Doubleday.