Regarding Ducks and Universes Paperback – 11 Jan 2011
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About the Author
Neve Maslakovic spent her early years speaking Serbian in Belgrade, in former communist Yugoslavia. After stops along the way in London, New York, and California, she has settled in Minneapolis-St. Paul, where she admits to enjoying the winters. She earned her Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Stanford University's STARLab (Space, Telecommunications, and Radioscience Laboratory) and is a member of the Loft Literary Center. Regarding Ducks and Universes is her first novel, and she is hard at work on her second.
Top customer reviews
In January 1986 the world split into, apparently, two alternative universes. People born before the event were replicated in the new universe, and therefore had an alter (ego). Commmunication was established between the two (A & B) universes and passage from one to the other became possible.
Felix A, discovering at age 35 that he was in fact born before the split, travels from his own, rather arid-sounding San Francisco to the brash and well-described world of B in search of Felix B, ostensibly because he wants to be an author and is afraid his alter has already written a book. He falls in with graduate students researching the cause of the split and begins to wonder whether he and his alter were in fact responsible for it.
All quite mad, but the delight of this book is the detail; Felix's discovery of paper books, unheard of in his own universe, the 'omni' of which our Kindle seems to be a forerunner, the mystery of events on the Golden Gate bridge, and of course a small yellow plastic duck which has a strong bearing on the outcome of the story.
Not at all a 'deep' read, but a most entertaining one.
This is nominally a science fiction novel, but it is not 'hard' SF. There is no real examination of the science behind it and the situation of having two alternative universes that can be travelled between is just a plot device to create the right circumstances for a comedy detective story.
I found it all quite enjoyable even if the detective aspect was not particularly mysterious or thrilling, the science understated and the humour gentle rather than guffaw-producing. Certainly a decent first novel which, after the first few pages of establishing the circumstances, had me ruashing through to find out what happens.
As the author had a PhD in electrical engineering I figure she knows a bit about science and I had a sense that she was struggling to keep it out of the book where it would have only got in the way. Enough science does sneak in for you to have a few "what if..." thoughts about it all, and enough hints are dropped to explain why there are only two universes when the most likely options are either a single universe or an infinite number - the answer being that there are an infinite number but only these two have a link between them. (OK, actually there would be an infinite number of other linked pairs, but now I'm starting to get bogged down in the science)
For me, the best science fiction is not about the science but about human response to the science. In this case the concept of having a mechanism to travel between two alternative universes doesn't result in everybody acting like Prof Brian Cox and being in awe and wonder - society's response is to set up a huge and intricate bi-univeral bureaucracy with undertones of totalitarianism. The reasons for this are hinted at but I would have liked more exploration of this, though I can see how that would derail the story a bit.
On a personal level, the main character has a little bit of the Arthur Dent about him. Faced with the prospect of having an alternative copy of himn in the other universe, his preoccupation is with whether his 'alter' has written the book that he keeps meaning to write. Even in the face of mounting evidence that he was personally responsible for the whole creation of the alternative universe, and growing suspicion that somebody is trying to kill him, the hero still remains fixated on this triviality.
This idea that, faced with amazing circumstances, humans remain doggedly human is what I liked best in this very readable book which should probably be read on a Kindle for reasons that will become clear before the second chapter.
I couldn't warm to this book. It started promising, the expositions and intricately detailed descriptions of actions and thoughts were amusing at first, but then became a little annoying. In a way it feels like a screenplay, with very specific directing instructions. I also get the idea of emulating an Agatha Christie mystery but it doesn't quite work for me.
I don't hate it. 14 year old me would probably have liked it. As I say, sadly that boat sailed some time ago, so I'm left with a book that I'd like to send back to me in a time machine to enjoy. As for me now, I struggled to finish so that I could get to a grown up's book. Sorry...
It is published by AmazonEncore (Amazon Publishing's flagship imprint, AmazonEncore helps unearth exceptional books and emerging authors for more readers to enjoy. All AmazonEncore titles are also available on Kindle. ) I look forward to more books from Encore if they are of this quality and orgininality.
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