Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Answering review request: Close Encounters of the Rubber Ducky Kind

Vincent Lemon asked me to read his novel "Close Encounters of the Rubber Ducky Kind". It is a science fiction story about all the universe being a reality TV show for other planets within the same universe. Yes, it is like The Truman Show, but weirder. I will look at plot, characters and polish and then assign a grade.


It is hard to say that there is one because it never settles on anything in particular. It starts off with Calzone, a little green man alien, playing god with the planet that he narrates for. That drops off after a couple dozen pages and then it shifts into a mystery where Calzone investigates the company that he used to work for to discover its true purpose. That is condensed into a couple pages. Then the "Game of Life' for gods" thing starts up and that goes on until around 50 pages and then something else starts with a new viewpoint character, a new setting and a new conflict. That drops off after a dozen or so pages and something completely different yet tangentially related starts up. This goes on and on until the book ends.

Indeed, there is a certain plot structure where the initial state of things (Calzone designing a world for fun/entertainment for others) reoccurs with different conditions. The only reason the story ends is because of a more fundamental shift in its underpinnings. I think that's the plot. For certain, one could spin a Matryoshka Doll WMG out of this or analogize the stuffing out of it, but it doesn't inspire me to do so. It is quite boring.

Though it has surprises, twists, and unexpected plot developments, the tone is so dull that I don't care. Calzone, for instance, once lists off the events that follow a world-ending meteor shower in a dispassionate sort of way that shows he doesn't really care either. For a story that is about entertaining people, the story itself does little of that. In fairness, the start of each new plot thread is interesting and one of them had me excited, but that is it.

After a certain point, the story feels like nothing more than a collection of its own jokes. The "disgustingly healthy" Universal Health Food Machines, the rubber ducks, donuts and jam, pointy sticks, etc.

It had a better ending than I was expecting. By "better", I mean more conclusive, more tying-everything-together ending. However, there is still a major plot thread that is just left hanging.


The characters, as a whole, are one-dimensional.

Calzone is a creative guy who likes breaking rules, but he is basically a plot prop for his author and rotating bosses. There is one part of the plot where he acts in defiance of his bosses (and not out of boredom or knee-jerk contrariness) and displays a streak of heroic desire but that is brief and he returns to form soon enough.

Adam stuffs himself with pastries. While he displays some fear at going mad with boredom, like Calzone, that is just one scene. Bill is Adam's evil counterpart, just replace "pastries" with "alcohol" and "fear at going mad with boredom" with "anger at Adam winning at anything".

Bob has little screen time and a good chunk of that is during a period as a blank slate where he is used for an info dump.


Grammar and spelling look good.

Trickster Eric Novels gives "Close Encounters of the Rubber Ducky Kind" a D-

This was a free review request. The author wanted an honest review so I provided one.

Click here for the next book review (for fun): Fellowship of Fantasy - Fantastic Creatures

Click here for the previous book review (request): Veil of Darkness

Brian Wilkerson is a independent novelist, freelance book reviewer, and writing advice blogger. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).

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