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The Only Living Girl on Earth

The Only Living Girl on Earth

The Only Living Girl on Earth

4/5 (95 ratings)
43 pages
37 minutes
Jan 8, 2021


From the genre-defying, critically beloved author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and Interior Chinatown and one of the creative minds behind HBO’s Westworld comes a sweet and searing, unexpected and delightfully absurd vision of life on Earth a thousand years in the future.

Jane is the only person left on the planet, minding the only business left: a gift shop. She wasn’t born on Earth, but her ancestors were; they lived there before the AI in charge of geoengineering failed and the oceans got too hot to sustain the terrestrial food web and before humans took off to colonize other planets.

She’s heading to college on Jupiter in the fall of 3020, so her days on the home planet—selling “American Epoch” postcards, “History: The Poster!” and “War: The Soundtrack” to tourists from the suburbs of Europa—are numbered. But as the looping promotional ad for Earth details, in the planet’s more recent past there was an amusement park, a museum, and even a model American town to draw visitors: all shuttered now, abandoned. When a man and his son crash-land their rocket and need assistance, as well as some diversion, Jane learns that the other attractions on Earth are not so defunct after all and may have taken on a life of their own.

Told, fittingly, in interconnected fragments, The Only Living Girl on Earth captures a place where only fragments of its landscape remain. At once dead serious and playful, recognizable and as otherworldly and unsettling as Yu’s other sci-fi reinventions, it is a cautionary tale about all that we could lose—are losing—by failing to live sustainably and about what we hope to leave behind for future generations. It is also a love letter to what it means to be human, how connected we are to a place and one another, and how we must fight to preserve these gifts. In this, Yu expresses his unique brand of cosmic humanism, that even in the face of dire circumstances, when we feel the most estranged from who and what we are, there is still hope.

Jan 8, 2021

About the author

Charles Yu is the author of three books, including the novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (a New York Times Notable Book and a Time magazine best book of the year). He received the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 Award and was nominated for two Writers Guild of America Awards for his work on the HBO series, Westworld. He has also written for shows on FX, AMC, and HBO. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Wired, among other publications.

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The Only Living Girl on Earth - Charles Yu


I. Jane

ON MONDAYS, her mom always calls her from the moon.

Get to work okay?



Sorry to say this. I’m dead.

That’s nice, Jane. That’s a nice reaction to your mother caring about you.

Like, really dead. Super dead. Burned up on reentry to Earth. It was gruesome.

Someday you’re going to feel bad about this conversation.

I already feel pretty bad about it.

I’m serious. You’ll understand. When you have a kid of your own.

You realize I’d have to actually meet a guy in order for that to happen?

It’s a long way from our little satellite. All I do is worry about you, and I have to deal with this?

Mom. I’m okay. Are you?

I’m fine. Just fine.

Very convincing, Jane says.

Then it’s quiet on the line. Jane listens to the crackle of white noise—cosmic background radiation—a faint reminder of the big bang. A single event 13.7 billion years ago, working itself out.

From Monday to Friday, Jane lives here. Two hundred forty thousand miles from her mom. It’s a weird distance. Not cosmic. Not even galactic. Just far enough. The size of the local situation. Radius of their private little system.

Today marks the middle of the off-season. Three months since the last of the tourists packed up and shuffled off to various subdivisions on Europa. It’ll be another couple months before the cycle begins again, early birds trickling in. Until then, weeks of solitude, broken up by occasional stragglers, bargain hunters, retirees on cut-rate packages looking for a hot meal and a clean restroom.

Come to Earth! the looping promo video says. Jane wishes she could turn it off, but the remote’s broken. She stretches, sips coffee, watches it for the ten thousandth time.

II. Gift Shop

COME TO EARTH! Yes, that Earth. A lot of people think we’re closed during construction, but we’re not. The gift shop is still open for business.

Admittedly, it’s a little confusing.

First we were Earth: The Planet. Then life formed, and that was a great and good time.

And then, for a little while, we were Earth: A Bunch of Civilizations!

That lasted until the AI in charge of geoengineering got out of whack. Which made the oceans crazy hot. Which caused weather patterns to go berserk. Which led to fish stocks collapsing. Followed by the terrestrial food web also collapsing, and from there it wasn’t long before nation-states began to dissolve and the entire world order destabilized.

A lucky few escaped and went out in search of new worlds to colonize. Or so we’re told. The record-keeping that far back gets pretty iffy.

Then, for what seemed like an eternity, we were Earth: Not Much Going On Here Anymore. And that lasted for a pretty long time. Which was then followed by a really long time.

After a couple of eons, humans, having established colonies on other planets, started to come back to Earth,

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What people think about The Only Living Girl on Earth

95 ratings / 5 Reviews
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  • (4/5)
    I found it easy to relate to the main character and became immersed in the story. It was eye opening to see an aspect of perception that is plausible and relevant to the issues we face around us today except this book is set 1000 years into the future.
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    Định nghĩa bài Poker:
    Poker là một game bắt nguồn từ châu Âu. Hiện tại bài Poker cũng đã trở nên phổ biến và thành một trong những game được ưa chuộng nhất tại các sòng casino, kể cả các sòng online như hiện nay. Cũng như nhiều game khác, bài Poker cũng là một chuyển thể khác từ bộ bài Tây 52 lá. Poker khác với những game thông thường ở chỗ Poker là game trí tuệ. May mắn đương nhiên cũng rất cần thiết, nhưng kỹ năng điêu luyện để chơi bài Poker mới là tính quyết định.
    Cách tính Poker
    Poker được xem là một môn thể thao trí tuệ. Cũng bở lẽ nó phải áp dụng cách tính Poker vô cùng gay cấn và hấp dẫn của toán học. Chính nhờ vậy, người có thể tính cho mình một cách đánh riêng của bản thân và giành chiến thắng cho mình.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    3 people found this helpful

    In the last book I read by this author there was a thoroughly ordinary service economy worker going through life in a world that resembles ours in some relatable ways, but differs in some major ones. In this novella we have a protagonist in much the same situation, eking out a life as the last girl living on Earth while planning for college near Jupiter and dealing with unsatisfactory family dynamics. The Earth has suffered some big setbacks due to mismanagement and is now only a gift shop catering to tourists wishing to have "the Earth experience" in order to feel connected to their ancestors. In the middle section, we ride along with a family on the farcical theme park rides associated with the gift shop purporting to depict history as it was. I did notice in some places how there was this strange awareness of what happened round our own stretch of history as opposed to centuries before or since then.

    This story has built its world folowing the principle of "If this keeps going on..." extrapolating to a time where all the cataclysms we are learning about now have already taken place and made the planet uninhabitable. The prose is dry and distant, and that is I think part of why I couldn't develop much of a strong attachment to the characters. The other part is that I believe the author didn't intend for the reader to grow attached, either. Instead, the main feeling I came away with was one of sadness over what our home planet has become, mixed with some light comedy along the way. I would classify this story as being closer to slipstream than as solidly science fictional, with its main preoccupations centering on the characters' lives.

    3 people found this helpful

  • (5/5)

    4 people found this helpful

    I thought I would have some quick fun a la Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, but it got more Martian Chronicles. Overall, the experience ended up being quite existential. What a brilliant writer.

    Warning America: The Ride may rock your world.

    Also, admitted bias as I am a SCRIBD EMPLOYEE

    4 people found this helpful

  • (5/5)

    2 people found this helpful

    I am so in love with this that I am too stunned for real words. Absolute perfection!!! Charles Yu is so talented and whew the way this HITS after 2020.

    2 people found this helpful