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Regarding Ducks and Universes Paperback – February 22, 2011

3.8 out of 5 stars 196 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

From Booklist

Felix Sayers has lived his entire life believing he was born six months after a brilliant scientist bifurcated the universe, creating Universe A, where Felix resides, and Universe B. When Felix's great-aunt leaves him a picture of himself as a baby, dated before the bifurcation of the universe, Felix realizes he has an alter living in Universe B. Afraid that the alter might already have written the mystery novel Felix has been contemplating penning, Felix decides to make a trip to Universe B. Though it's against regulations to contact his alter, Felix hires a private detective to investigate Felix B. But Felix soon finds himself under scrutiny when he's approached by a graduate student named Bean who suspects that Felix's own action as a baby may have caused the split between the universes. The smallest moment may matter, a character tells Felix when explaining the possibility of an infinite number of universes branching off from tiny, seemingly insignificant actions and decisions. Weaving together physics, philosophy, and wry humor, Maslakovic's inventive debut is a delight. --Kristine Huntley
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: 47North (February 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935597345
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935597346
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (196 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #293,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Neve Maslakovic is the author of the Incident series (time-travel whodunits) as well as a standalone novel, Regarding Ducks and Universes. Neve's life journey has taken her from Belgrade, Serbia to a PhD at Stanford University's STAR Lab (Space, Telecommunications and Radioscience Lab) to her dream job as a full-time writer. She currently lives with her husband and son near Minneapolis/St. Paul, where she admits to enjoying the winters. Booklist called her debut novel, Regarding Ducks and Universes, "Inventive... a delight."

Find out more at www.nevemaslakovic.com.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Quantum mechanics is one of the most successful theories of modern physics. It works, but nobody quite knows what it means in a fundamental sense. One popular current hypothesis of its meaning is Parallel Worlds - every time two possible outcomes exist (such as a coin flip - heads or tails), the universe splits and each possibility comes true in one of the resultant universes. With time, the two universes will begin to differ as many choices end up being made differently between the two universes.

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.
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Format: Paperback
When Felix Sayers discovered he had an alternate self in a parallel universe, he, who was usually so circumspect, careful and settled in his life as a culinary writer, threw caution to the wind, emptied his savings account to buy passage to San Francisco B to snoop - yes, snoop on his alternate, an activity specifically forbidden by law. But Felix had to know if his alter in San Francisco B had written the murder mystery that Felix of San Francisco A had long been planning, but procrastinating about writing.

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.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
'Altrernate Universe' stories are not easy to write I'm sure because they have to make sense, at least on the surface. This one makes absolute sense.

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?
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Amazon's Encore program gives overlooked or neglected books a second chance. In this case, it's a debut novel by an SF novelist about the mystery behind who created an alternate universe. Yes, there's also a duck involved, along with some cookery, large canine-ish pets, actresses, and graduate students. It's supposed to be a light-hearted comedy sci-fi book with some gentle romance and overtones of a mystery novel. In the end, it's just a silly mess that can't quite justify its own existence.

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.
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