Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A visit to Universe B

There is much to like about Neve Maslakovic's 2010 sci-fi novel Regarding Ducks and Universes. That title, for example. And I love the cover illustration, uncredited in the book, showing a little boy and a toy duck on the Golden Gate Bridge.

I also love the premise of the story. Thirty-five years ago something happened to cause the universe to split, creating a duplicate of itself. This means that everyone alive on that date also has a duplicate, or an alter. It is possible to travel from one universe to another to see how different they have become, even after just 35 years. One universe, more environmentally conscious than the other, has eliminated books printed on paper. Microwave ovens don't exist in one universe. One universe has fewer hurricanes.

Felix Sayers, born just months before "Y-day," decides to take a vacation to Universe B. Regulations supposedly forbid looking up one's alter in the other universe, but who can resist? Felix, an aspiring writer, wonders if Felix B has already written a book. "I was afraid of finding out he'd done a better job of living my life," Felix says.

Complications multiply as soon as Felix enters the other universe, and it seems that someone is trying to kill him. He becomes involved with a team of researchers trying to discover why the universe split. They think Felix himself, though just an infant at the time, may have been responsible. Perhaps something to do with that duck.

This sounds fascinating, right? Sometimes it is, but too often Maslakovic's prose just bogs down and takes some time to get moving again. Multiple universes would naturally be complicated, but sometimes the plot seems just more complicated than it needs to be. I enjoyed the book, but not nearly as much as I thought I would.

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