I don’t tend to read much comic sci-fi—though I certainly loved Douglas Adams back when I first read him—and I’m not totally sure how well my tastes in the subgenre line up with other readers. But when a comedy made the finals of the Self-Published Science Fiction Competition (SPSFC), I was curious to see how it would hit for me. And right after finishing the sci-fi epic Iron Truth, G. M. Nair’s Duckett & Dyer: Dicks for Hire seemed as though it would be the perfect change of pace.
The primary goal of Duckett & Dyer: Dicks for Hire is mirth-generation, but there is a fairly clear plot around which the jokes are built: a series of people disappear in thunderstorms, and multiple people approach the definitely-not-a-detective Michael Duckett about solving the case. And when one of those people is the woman who actually agreed to go on an unlikely date with him, Duckett and his best friend Stephanie Dyer begin their investigation. Hijinks ensue. Also there is a multiverse.
In case you didn’t know what to expect from this one, the copyright page should be signal enough. It doesn’t represent the only form of humor in the entire novel, but it’s fun in a way we’ll see repeated as the book progresses. As the story gets going, those narrative quips are joined by what feel like sitcom characters—Duckett as the lovable loser and Dyer as the character who projects confidence and never successfully follows through on anything—and a series of increasingly over-the-top scenarios.
There’s not much about fiction that isn’t at least partially a matter of taste, but comedy feels like an extreme case, and Duckett & Dyer: Dicks for Hire flits back and forth in and out of my own tastes. I really enjoy the offhand remarks in the narrative, and I never stopped being tickled by the ridiculousness of the scheme that is revealed to have set off the multiverse madness. On the other hand, the author is much more amused by things exploding than I am, and Dyer falls under a character archetype that feels to me like fingernails on a chalkboard.
While the humor clearly takes center stage, I did appreciate the work put in to make plot and character something more than cheap scaffolding for jokes. While Dyer’s character setup drove me crazy, she actually did progress in an interesting way. It’s not like we got a deep dive character study that erased the aspects that bothered me—it isn’t that sort of book—but neither was she static. And for all that the plot was over-the-top, it resolved in a way that generally made sense and provided a neat jumping-off point for further work in the series. This won’t be a hit for any reader who doesn’t click with a particular sort of humor, but there was a lot that I enjoyed and even more that I could appreciate, even if I wasn’t always the right sort of reader.
Recommended if you like: sitcom humor, multiverses with lots of silliness.
Can I use it for Bingo? If it doesn’t win SPSFC, it’ll be hard mode for Award Finalist. Otherwise, it’s Self-Published by a BIPOC Author who Uses Initials.
Overall rating: 13 of Tar Vol’s 20. Three stars on Goodreads.
SPSFC Score: 6.5/10 for my personal score. We will await results from the other judges before announcing an official team score.