Quote of the Fortnight: Charles Yu’s “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe”

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This week’s Quote of the Fortnight features a startling urban vision from Charles Yu in his 2010 novel, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe. The book’s action takes place in a world where Los Angeles and New York have so increased in sprawl and density that they stretch across North American and form one giant city, New Angeles. Simultaneously, an inter dimensional rift of some sort causes half of Tokyo to merge with the New Angeles megacity. The result is New Angeles/Lost Tokyo-2, an urban planning vision to rival that of the most avante-garde architects. Here is the description of the city from the book:

Eighty-seven percent of the nonrobot population of Universe 31 lives in the capital city, the full legal name of which (used only by nonlocals due to the fact that it is printed that way on maps) is, officially,

NEW ANGELES/LOST TOKYO-2

The name abbreviated in governmental regulatory usage as NA/LT-2, and is sometimes, though not frequently, referred to informally as Lost City or Verse City or New Tokyo, but is known to virtually everyone other than tourists and bureaucrats as Loop City.

The formation of Loop City occurred in two steps. Step one: the cities of New York and Los Angeles, 2,462 miles apart, much to the surprise and consternation of residents and property owners and municipal officials and parking lot owners and westsiders from the eastern half and eastsiders from the western half, slowly and invisibly and irreversibly merged into each other, in the process swallowing up what was in between, leaving one metropolis that contained, within it, what had been America. Alaska and Hawaii were included as well.

The second phase began a short while later, when the sprawling city of Greater Tokyo spontaneously bifurcated along a spatio-temporal fault line. Half of this bifurcated Tokyo moved across the world and wrapped itself around the perimeter of the recently formed New York/Los Angeles chimera. This half is referred to as Lost Tokyo-2.

The other half, Lost Tokyo-1, has not been located yet, although presumably it exists out there somewhere in the universe, a mega-demi-city of eighty-five million people, a city fractured, cracked in half, torn, ripped not cleanly, but shredded, ragged, ripped along living rooms, plans, meetings, dates, conjugal beds in prisons, family dinner tables, secrets being whispered in ears, couples holding hands, separated in an instant without warning or explanation, leaving two halves, bewildered, speaking Japanese to instant neighbors from the other side of the world, unable to understand what has happened, or if things will ever go back to the way they were, hoping its other half might someday find its way back. (p. 61)

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