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Regarding Ducks and Universes Paperback – February 22, 2011
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Science, Then Fiction: A Q&A with Neve Maslakovic
Question: Most science fiction writers don't have a background in real science, but you graduated with your Ph.D. from Stanford's renowned STAR Lab. How did your scientific work influence your fictional writing? Did working in science inspire you to write?
Neve Maslakovic: When I first tried my hand at writing fiction, I found that the process is a close cousin of scientific research--you come up with an idea, sit down at your desk (or in your lab), work at it, spend time thinking, backtrack, try a different approach... neither one happens neatly and both are very creative endeavors. Science is guided by observation and deduction, of course, while in writing Regarding Ducks and Universes my aim was to make the novel a fun read and a bit thought-provoking at the same time. Ultimately, though, you're just tinkering with ideas until you hit upon something that works and feels right. I don't feel I've moved wholly away from science; on the contrary--scientists and academic settings inhabit my stories.
Question: You were born in communist Yugoslavia and have lived all over the world. How did your travels impact the creation of Universe A and Universe B in Regarding Ducks and Universes?
Neve Maslakovic: I love to travel, both in person and virtually, by reading about real places or by writing about imagined ones. Sometimes a place that's only a little different than what we're used to can be more disconcerting than a place that's hugely different. To that end, I wanted Universe A and Universe B to be "next-door" kind of universes to ours and to each other; the laws of physics are the same and people don't have five arms, but in Universe B ordinary things like paper books and Ferris wheels seem out of place to A-dweller Felix Sayers, who's come from a more technologically and environmentally oriented society. So he's a little baffled by San Francisco B, especially as it seems that someone is trying to kill him.
Question: What made you decide to set Regarding Ducks and Universes in San Francisco?
Neve Maslakovic: I think writers, even ones of speculative fiction, always end up writing about their lives and the places they've been, even if only in some extended sense. I was in California for 12 years, and, like all the places I've lived, it's become a part of me. And San Francisco, in particular, is such a unique and interesting city, a city of innovation, a literary city. A perfect setting for basement-lab experiments with universes and for an encounter with a paper book for the first time.
Question: What can we expect to see next from you? More science fiction? Or maybe something travel-related?
Neve Maslakovic: As a matter of fact, the novel I'm currently working on is going to be both science fiction and travel-related. I don't want to say too much at this early stage, but let's just say that this time there are no ducks, but there is an Australian didgeridoo. And Fibonacci numbers. And cheese, lots of cheese. And time travel.
More About the Author
Find out more at www.nevemaslakovic.com.
Top Customer Reviews
This is Ms. Maslakovic's first novel, and she has a PhD in electrical engineering which helps her with the scientific side of the story. She bases her book on a parallel universe splitting off, but in this case a scientist has somehow succeeded in maintaining a connection between the two parallel universes. People can even travel between the universes and meet their alternate self who slowly begins to differ over time, becoming more like a fraternal twin. Our hero, Felix Sayers, is considering writing a mystery novel and becomes obsessed that his Alternate will beat him to the punch, so he decides to travel to universe B. While there, someone seems to be trying to kill him. Is someone, and if so, could it be his alternate?
Hmm. This is not the strongest concept to base a novel, but the book turns out to be interesting, lighthearted and it reads quickly. In fact, perhaps it reads too quickly? It does not seem to me that Ms. Maslakovic has included much character development, and there are not complete enough scene descriptions. I recently listened to the audio version of Masques by Patricia Briggs. In the introduction, Ms. Briggs notes that this was her very first book (and it had not done well), but she is now successful and had been given a chance to rewrite it. Ms.Read more ›
Add to this delightfully believable adventure the intrigue of an attempted murder and a dollop of romance, and you have this imaginative, thoughtfully constructed book. A fun read, I recommend it.
In January, 1986, the universe split into two identical pieces. Each earth progressed in its history and as time passed, they became more and more unlike. However, there is contact between the two earths, and in fact people and things can travel between them! THe protragonist, Felix Sayers, is going to write a book. He knows he is, for sure, he just needs to sit down and DO it. But he is obsessed with the idea that the 'other' Felix might write his book first. So he decides to travel to the alternate earth and find out what his alter ego has accomplished.
Thus ensues mytery, murder, mayhem, and genetically altered pets. It's funny, it will make you smile, and at the end you will be surprised.
The big question is, if there are TWO alternative universes, why not more?
I found the plot convoluted, with plenty of characters who weren't really rounded out very well. The fundamental problem is that plot is prioritized over character development... but then the plot becomes very complicated very quickly, and details in all the wrong places are over-emphasized. I did finish the book, hoping that it would improve, which it kind of does. Unfortunately for the reader, it's too little, too late (but it does bode better for a second book...). In the end, as a former grad student, I found myself rooting for the graduate student romance. Unfortunately, it was one of the loose ends that wasn't really wrapped up.
This book is very much like "Mostly Harmless" by Douglas Adams. Fans of that series will know I haven't just paid Regarding Ducks and Universes a compliment. If you want a book on alternative universes, I recommend "The Gods Themselves" by Isaac Asimov. If you want a comedy sci-fi book with some gentle romance, I'd recommend the first couple of Hitchhiker's Guide books by Douglas Adams, but not the last three. If you want plot-driven sci-fi, try Paul J. McAuley (particularly 400 billion stars or the books of Confluence).
I won't be hanging onto this book, nor will I be buying it for friends. I think that says it all.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Loved this view of alternate realities. Tongue-in-cheek comments about inflation, etc great! The all green world vs normal world - great! Very enjoyable read with believable plot.Published 3 months ago by Tag
This book has a fresh and interesting plot, which has been well realised by Neve's writing style. He has mastered the technique of blending action and exposition, which is... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Sarah Kritzberg
This was a light and quick read, part fantastical and part mystery. Not much character development. A very intriguing concept though.Published 4 months ago by Pipeline
I have never ordered, received or read this book. How can I possibly rate it?Published 7 months ago by John Hutchison
While I enjoyed it at the beginning, it did tend to drag on a bit. The author seemed to want it to double as a treatise that examines the current shift in publishing between those... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Lori Basiewicz
This is a great, quick read. It is about the possibilities of multiple universes and consequences thereof.
I very much enjoyed it
Fantastic book from a new author. Love the slight twist you realize slowly throughout the story. I look forward to reading more from this author.Published 10 months ago by Steven J Voll