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Regarding Ducks and Universes [Paperback] Unknown Binding – 2011
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Top customer reviews
Yes, it has been in my queue for 5 1/2 years and I just now read it. That said, due to the long wait, I feel that I owe this book at least a short review.
This was a fairly quick, light, and engaging read. A great book to relax on a hammock and read (I did).
The characters were reasonably well developed for a short story. They were likable, relatable, enjoyable, and probably a few other positive -able words. They contained some depth and grew throughout the story. They did fit certain stereotypes for the types of characters that they were, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
The plot(s) were fun and able to be followed. Frequently in multi-universe books (especially ones with body doubles), it is soooo difficult to track which person you are reading about. This book does not suffer that problem. Additionally while what is stated to be the main plot is well written, it is actually the plot of character growth and the relationship of the protagonist to the other characters that draws the most interest from me.
The universe. As I repeatedly say, I love a book where world-building takes center stage. A book that has the word universe in the title and is about multiple universes is daring me to be skeptical. Perhaps that is a reason it has been on my "to read" list for so long. This universe (ummm...these universes?) of the book is front and center to the integrity of the story. While not nearly as complex as the world-building of Sanderson, Martin, or Sullivan, it is also not same type of story as those authors so I can't really fault the book for that. It would be like complaining that my milkshake didn't take like chai; I ordered the milkshake so I knew what I was getting. After that twisted analogy, I'll just say that I liked this universe. It was extremely appropriate for this story and setting.
The backdrop is that a technical writer and aspiring novelist, Felix Sayers, finds out that he has an “alter.” In Sayer’s world, there are two San Franciscos. He is from what’s considered the original Universe, A, and there’s an alternative Universe B that one can cross over to if one is willing to follow a number of rules--mostly set in place to prohibit interacting with one’s alter. Everyone born before the schism of the two universes has an alternative version of themselves in the alternate universe unless that person has passed away. Like identical twins, “alters” look alike, but because of chains of different decisions and experiences, they may lead considerably different lives. Felix thought he was alter-less, but when he finds out about a discrepancy in his birthdate, he realizes he does.
Felix decides to go to Universe B, to spy on and possibly interrogate his alter—in contravention of the rules. Specifically, Felix of A wants to know if Felix B is working on a novel, and, if so, if the alter is ahead of him. He doesn’t want his to be relegated to writing the novel by “the other Felix Sayers.”
As the story progresses, the novel crosses genres again, adding a mystery component. When Felix crosses over, he draws much more attention than he wants or expects. This includes several failed (and sometimes comedic) attempts on his life. Felix immediately suspects one person, but it wouldn’t be much of a mystery if the initial suspect turned out to be the villain. Actually, it’s not much of a murder mystery because there are few characters who we can believe would be credibly wicked.
However, there’s still the mysterious question of whether Felix engaged in an activity that resulted in the split. Of course, there’s a scientist who creates the conditions in which the schism can happen, but Felix nonetheless worries whether he “caused” the split through some inadvertent act as an infant. This may not be so much a critique as it is insight into what makes the lead likable, if hapless. Incidentally, this is where the duck comes in.
If you like light sci-fi, this is a good read. It’s not sidesplitting like Douglas Adams, but it’s laid back and has a dry sense of humor.