Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Attack Of The Unsinkable Rubber Ducks

by Christopher Brookmyre

If I was in any doubt about my resolution to only read new authors this summer (I wasn't) I wouldn't be now (I'm still not.)

If you think that sentence is convoluted, then you've never come across the plot of Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks (particularly with that word 'doubt' floating about.)

First off, this book is brilliant. Once this SOS business is over and I can raed books by familiar authors, reading another Brookmyre is going to be a high priority. It's funny, clever, and peopled with more than a few excellent characters, and more than one compelling narrator.

The plot is built around the (ridiculous) ongoing debate between rationality and mysticism. Such is its intelligent switches of perspective, deliberately (and apologetically) misleading narration, and sheer twisty intricacy, that you're never quite sure which side of the debate the book is going to finally land on. The raging, sweary skeptic telling us most of the story is speaking from beyond the grave.

It's that narrator, who occasionally hands the tale over to a very able supporting cast of slap-deserving journalists and Firefly-watching geeks, who really shines. It's his self-aware, ranting-Scot angle on events that had me laughing out loud, and it's his feats of reader-deception that would have had me gasping in wonder, if I was the gasping-in-wonder type. I'm not.

I would love to be able to plot a book like this. Honestly, I've no idea how Brookmyre goes about it. I'd love to ask him how he gets from an initial thought to this plot. Working backwards, there doesn't seem a viable path... it's a miracle! That's not the dreaded 'where do your ideas come from?' question, remember, but 'how do you develop and construct the idea once you've got it?'

What really turns the complexity up to the level that would have Creationists shouting about (Very) Intelligent Design is the central role of charlatry in the story. (Okay, that's not a real word, but it should be.) Everyone is at some level a con-artist or a cynic or a gullible fool, and mostly a hard-to-guess mixture of the both. ANd that includes the reader. Or at least that's what you're meant to think, so you're constantly second-guessing yourself. Or I was. Or was I? Argh.

And that's pretty much how I ended up thinking by the end of this book, alongside one other thought. The other thought was: this is so good.

I'm pretty sure I've not actually, actively recommended a book on this blog yet. I've talked them up, but never made that extra step and told you to go out and read them. Even though I've talked about Chabon and Lodge and Pratchett and VONNEGUT.

So it should be with that in mind that you, awestruck reader, take this recommendation very very seriously:



  1. I'm embarrassed to expose my ignorance and admit I'd never heard of Brookmyre before reading your review, but after digesting your enthusiasm and doing a little supplementary 'net research, I'm jumpin' on the Brookmyre Bandwagon. He sounds fantastic - a little Vonnegut, Christopher Moore and Tom Robbins all rolled into one? Thanks for a great review!

  2. I may check him out for my next B if he is that good. Either that or ditch the whole alphabet and read him regardless.

  3. Ditto what Greg said. I wiki'd Brookmyre and checked out his website. I'm intrigued and will put this one on my TBR list. Your review was great, btw.

  4. Me too! You have totally piqued my interest.

  5. Hmmmmm . . . I just went to paperbackswap.com to order a copy and I see that this is book 5 of a series, is that correct? I usually don't like to jump into the middle of a series. But since you didn't mention anything to the contrary in your review, I assume it stands alone very well . . . ?

  6. there was nothing on the book that made any mention of it being a series, and i know because i checked a couple of times -- there were lots of past references in the text, but they could just have easily been there for background colour. i really should have checked online though...

    but yes, it definitely stands alone very well.