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Sorry Please Thank You: Stories Hardcover – July 24, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; F First Edition edition (July 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307907171
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307907172
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #518,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“What Charles Yu does very well—it is a long list, but this may be its most notable entry—is to create strange and disturbingly normal alternate realities. In his first novel, How To Live Safely In a Science Fictional Universe, Yu conceived of Minor Universe 31, a universe filled with people widely, albeit unhappily, using time machines. He took sci-fi theories and ran them through a sort of literary normalizer, applying ample wit, pop-culture references, psychological insight, metaphorical flair, and a vital sweetness (his young, isolated protagonist, in search of his father, even has a stray dog for a pet). Overflowing with quasi-scientific jargon, the novel was exciting and funny and, at times, downright spooky, much like the quantum theories that Yu invoked. But most of all, for a story about a time travel mechanic, it was unfailingly realistic. . . . In his new collection of stories, Sorry Please Thank You, Yu no longer constrains himself to the pre-requisites of realism—or, to be more accurate, the appearance of realism. Freed from this yoke, he takes off in every narrative direction with the glee of a school-kid released for summer vacation. . . . While Yu has drawn many comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut for his entertaining and adept satire, and to Douglas Adams for his intelligent and inventive silliness, Donald Barthelme seems an overlooked literary forebear. . . . As readers, we are all the better for Yu’s astonishing mix of wild imagination and meticulous restraint. Of the three polite phrases that comprise his title—Sorry Please Thank You—only the last is of true relevance here. No sorries, Charles. Just thanks.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“There's some of the cerebral gamesmanship of Jonathan Lethem, the resigned sadness of Kurt Vonnegut, the Phil Dickian paranoiac distrust of consumer culture. But Yu's voice, sensibility and approach are unique, especially in the ways he wrings humor and pathos out of stripped-down syntax and seemingly passive protagonists . . . The stories deliver more than their fair share of bitter laughs, philosophical conundrums and existential gut punches.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“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 . . . [Charles Yu is ] the computer century's heir to Philip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury.”
Shelf Awareness

“Yu’s workman-like sentences are unexpectedly emotive, while also being almost always very funny . . . As with his critically acclaimed, much-adored 2010 debut novel, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, Yu’s new baker’s dozen of satiric stories tell of a future that’s really just an exaggerated present . . . Like the best science fiction writers, Yu provides seemingly gratuitous logistical information to mitigate any hint of farce . . . Yu is a master of the slow reveal. It sometimes takes pages to understand where we are and why, but as the chatty protagonists joke and confess their deepest pains, details accrue and outlines fill in. And when we are finally oriented, the universe he has created feels eerily complete . . . Imaginary lands become possible worlds; cunning tricks grow into game theory; playing pretend morphs into explorations of false consciousness. Each story in Sorry Please Thank You is staggeringly smart, and none feel like anything but entertainment. Cultish fans of the NBC comedy “Community,’’ this book is for you.”
The Boston Globe

“I don't know that there's a better story-bending talent at work than Yu since the rise of George Saunders . . . If you take a longer view you can see that Yu's success has many parents, from the oft-quoted Stein, the tone of Hemingway and Beckett, Virginia Woolf's fanciful short creations (as in, say, the story "Kew Gardens"), Calvino's game-faced fantasies and the low-key but powerful satire of Kurt Vonnegut . . . a tour-de-force.”
—Alan Cheuse,
“Lovely and heartfelt . . . A brilliantly manic ride . . . Yu has an undeniable gift for describing, in clean, economical prose, the mechanics of things that don't exist or are impossible."
The Wall Street Journal

“Stand back. The lead story in Sorry Please Thank You, this spritely new collection by L.A. writer Charles Yu, has the title ‘Standard Loneliness Package’ and it announces that a sly, nimble fantasist with a speculative edge is at work here. [An] adroit piece of work . . . Experiment plus emotion, we don’t often find these two elements together, but when it happens, as it does in most of these stories . . . it makes for terrific reading for the heart as well as the head.”
—Alan Cheuse for NPR’s All Things Considered
“Charles Yu won us over with his weird, melancholy novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and now he's back . . . [These] stories are psychological studies of neurotic nerds, struggling to stay alive as they fight liches and loneliness. They're beautiful, strange, and funny.”
“Yu’s bold, playful voice evokes a computer-era Donald Barthelme, but his stylistic journey into the vast universe that is the human mind is refreshingly distinctive.”

“Laugh-out-loud moments of strangeness artfully exist in a contemporary fictional structure . . . With this collection, steeped in originality, we get echoes of David Foster Wallace’s early collection, Girl with the Curious Hair. Like Wallace, Yu abandons the more self-serving, insular metafiction of the past 40 years for a fresher form. Using technology, pop culture, etc., he attempts to write fiction that can be best shared with readers, not just critics or scholars. Yu, in fact, marries science and literature . . . Characteristic of his work, Yu mixes the beauty of human emotion with the science fiction to invent highly original, highly entertaining scenes and stories. He poses questions of reality and existence. You first think you’re chuckling to yourself. Then, without warning, you‘ve got that ‘reaching final altitude’ feeling in your stomach—a sudden change . . . Yu examines what it means to exist now and, in his own way, what it will mean in the future. It’s almost as if these stories, through their science fiction and futuristic themes twinned with a humorous yet moving style, strive to reinvent what we know as metafiction . . . Yu follows Vonnegut and Wallace in this style of metafictional, literary pilgrimage”
Paste Magazine

 “Grade A- . . . Pick it up and kiss your weekend good-bye . . . The best comparisons, though it feels a little hyperbolic to say, might be made with Vonnegut’s more pessimistic novels, books like Cat’s Cradle, Deadeye Dick, and Timequake. With Sorry Please Thank You, Yu has achieved something rare: an aggressively imagined work of fiction in which the concepts (mostly) serve the characters.”
Boston Phoenix

“Charles Yu's outstanding collection Sorry Please Thank You collects short fiction by the author who gave us the terrific How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. Yu's blend of literary fiction's style with sci-fi's wild ideas is beautifully realized here, especially in the moving gem "Standard Loneliness Package." One of the year's best collections in any genre.”
The Austin American-Statesman

“Enchanting . . . Yu’s ability to assume widely diverging roles as a storyteller is dazzling . . . Those not bothered by diverse writing styles will find reading Yu to be an exciting adventure.”
Library Journal 
“Like his debut novel, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, Charles Yu's new collection of stories mixes humor and clever conceits with a perfect deadpan delivery . . . Sharp, crisp insights that will have you chuckling and shaking your head.”
Los Angeles Times
“The author behind three of the most unusual books of fiction published in the past five years . . . Untraditional but weirdly glorious narratives that, for all their experimental form, end up carrying as much or even more emotional force as your original, more conventional vessel would have.”
Poets and Writers
“In his new collection, Charles Yu applies his trademark winking, pop-culture-infused, sci-fi mentality to a series of short stories . . . Clever and cutting.”
“Whether Yu’s work is dark, thought provoking, humorous, or all of the above, it’s always compulsively readable.”
—Owl and Bear

“Looking for the next great voice in fiction? Young author Charles Yu’s short stories beg comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams, but he’s funnier than both.”
Men’s Health
“Entertaining . . . Like a friend who stops by unexpectedly with a bunch of mind-bending tales to share . . . had me laughing . . . go order a copy.”
—Geekdad, Wired Magazine
“Impressive . . . Charts eclectic territory, from a zombie in a megamart to a new pharmaceutical drug that generates a sense of purpose, and explores retreats from reality and emotion . . . [Am] amusing send up American consumer culture.”
Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Charles Yu is the author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, which was named one of the best books of the year by Time magazine. He received the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award for his story collection Third Class Superhero, and was a finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award. His work has been published in The New York Times, Playboy, and Slate, among other periodicals. Yu lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Michelle, and their two children.

Customer Reviews

Charles Yu has written some amazing short stories but this collection is definitely his best one.
William Reese
I think I get why that had to happen, but I don't think it will work properly as an e-book, and it didn't even really work for me in print.
a scientist
Mr. Yu has a vivid imagination, a crisp writing style and he really grabs the reader by the throat.
Paper or Kindle

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John Kwok HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
One of the most celebrated emerging writers of literary science fiction of our time, Charles Yu's magnificent "Sorry Please Thank You" is yet another remarkable literary achievement, demonstrating both the ample originality and vitality of his writing. Yu has breathed astonishingly new life into such time-honored fantasy, science fiction and horror tropes as zombies, space opera and Artificial Intelligence into his latest short story collection; one which will resonate strongly with fellow admirers of science fiction and fantasy as well as a more mainstream literary audience which recognizes just how astute and humorous Charles Yu is as an observer of modern society and its emphasis on science and technology. The opening story, "Standard Loneliness Package", is a witty post-cyberpunk tale of sharing one's emotions that reads as a hilarious cross between Neal Stephenson's "Snow Crash" and Gary Shteyngart's "Super Sad True Love Story". It's followed by the irresistibly funny "First Person Shooter" about a department store clerk thinking how he'll win the affections of a fellow employee while contending with a zombie obsessed in making her own "fashion statement"; Yu's zombie tale is the most original one I have stumbled upon in years. "Hero Absorbs Major Damage" chronicles the epic quest of one noble warrior leading a ragtag band of warriors across a desolate, often dangerous, computer-generated landscape. "Yeoman" is a hysterically humorous send-up of "Star Trek", describing a lowly crewmember's feelings as he finds himself tempting fate as the "expendable" member of a starship's "away team" as the starship hurls deeper into the "final frontier".Read more ›
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Susan Tunis TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There were elements of Charles Yu's debut novel (How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe: A Novel (Vintage)) that I absolutely loved, and yet it didn't hold together as a whole for me. I have no such reservations about this story collection. It is fantastic. With that said, I can't honestly claim every single story within it is a five-star read, but I'd say the majority of them are. (I really wanted to give this collection as a whole a five star rating, but I'm trying to contain my enthusiasm.) And they'll speak to the same fans of geek culture that enjoy books like Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, as well as Yu's own debut. I'm not going to discuss every story in the collection here, but will cherry pick some of my favorites.

The opening tale, "Standard Loneliness Package," plays up to the author's strengths. I'd describe it as, "very Yu-ish, with a soupçon of Shteyngart." It's the first-person account of an Indian worker in a new industry--the outsourcing of emotion. "An industry was born. The business of bad feeling. For the right price, almost any part of life could be avoided." Later, the worker relates: "Of all the types of tickets, this is the worst. Heartbreak. When I first started at this job, I expected the hardest would be physical pain. But it's not. This is the hardest."

In "First Person Shooter," a worker on the graveyard shift at WorldMart announces, "There's a finger in Housewares." This leads her colleague to the discovery and assistance of a most unusual shopper.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By a scientist VINE VOICE on June 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really wanted to like this collection of stories more than 3 stars worth. Perhaps it's 3.5 stars, but it really isn't.

A little context: I already knew I was a fan of some of this author's work, having read his story "Standard Loneliness Package" in another collection (Rich Horton's 2011 collection of the year's best science fiction and fantasy). That story is here, along with a couple of other nice little concoctions: Yeoman and Designer Emotion 67 spring to mind. Without giving anything away, these stories all have a certain "knowingness" and represent clever takes on things you might have seen before, in the context of a book, movie, or even a corporate earnings report. It's not quite the zany whacked-outness of early Douglas Adams, nor is it the cynicism that prevails in some of those animated kid movies that know they have to play to adults. Instead, the humor is very "Galaxyquest," which I regard as an excellent science fiction spoof.

So why only 3 stars? Well, the second section (entitled "please" but really deserved "sorry" much more than the first section) just didn't work for me. "Hero absorbs major damage" wanted to be good, but ended poorly. The next few stories were irritating and ultimately unsatisfying. "Note to self" had so much potential and squandered it almost immediately. Isaac Asimov had taken a similar theme in "The Gods Themselves" and created a magical tale; Yu ended up losing coherence and ended abruptly and predictably.

I want to note that I was reading a galley proof of the paper version. My feeling is that several stories in the second section will work even less well in electronic form, since they rely on the layout of the page to work (or not work...).
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