For the past few months, we’ve been reading six more semi-finalists from the inaugural SPSFC. Today we’ve got the first full review of these six, which is of G. M. Nair’s Duckett & Dyer: Dicks For Hire. This book has an SPSFC rating of 7.50 out of 10, and is reviewed here by my co-judge Ryan.
Michael Duckett is a boring office drone. Stephanie Dyer is his childhood best friend, and their relationship at the start of the book wouldn’t make sense any other way. He’s perpetually annoyed at her for her failure to find direction in life; she’s annoyed he’s immensely dull. He’s the straight man, she’s the wild card. It’s an old comedy dynamic, but Nair makes it work exceedingly well.
First, their childhood history isn’t just a bit of set dressing to explain their relationship away. It informs who both of them are, and their dynamic. There often can be, especially among people who grew up as close friends but matured in different directions, a particular relationship dynamic, and I think Nair really nailed it.
Michael and Stephanie had met in elementary school, after Stephanie had saved him from a gang of bullies. Michael remembered only one bully, but the number of violent kids present rose every time Stephanie retold the story. When they met, Stephanie had been under the care of her aunt and uncle-her parents had died a few years prior-but despite this, she was a carefree, or more accurately, careless girl, constantly acting out in the most oddball ways, making her a bit of an outcast. Michael had gravitated to her as he, too, wasn’t particularly popular, but for completely different reasons.
The early section of the book was my personal favourite, as it grounded that dynamic in a sense of real humanity. Some of the scenes seemed straight out of a sitcom, (in particular, the restaurant scene still has me chuckling over a month later) but that worked as Nair navigated both the sense of real people at the heart of this story and the heightened reality of the sci-fi part of the story.
Duckett and Dyer find out they’re being hired as private investigators, despite not having credentials, experience, or (in the case of Michael, at least) interest. They’re being drawn into crime scenes. At first Michael assumes he’s being pranked, but that’d be too easy (and wouldn’t work in the SPSFC!) No, there’s a multiversal cascade.
To say the next steps of Michael and Stephanie’s journey were fruitless was an understatement, except for the one universal they found where everything had an apple for a head. They could not escape that one fast enough. But their subsequent jumps brought them to a further array of maddening alternate worlds: a universe where man was slave to an army of nude giants from space, an earth locked in the grip of an eternal World War One caused by a robotic Franz Ferdinand, and, perhaps most horrifying of all, a reality with a “Normal” Al Yankovic.
Among other things, I really appreciate that Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire starts the jokes out in the copyright section. It lets you know right off the bat the level of absurdity you’re going to be in for. This book was hilarious, and I am looking forward to diving into Duckett and Dyer: The One Hundred Percent Solution, and Duckett and Dyer: The Mystery of the Murdered Guy.