Shop Indie Bookstores
Version Control, Dexter Palmer, Pantheon Books, 2016, 495 pp
Back in 2010, I read Dexter Palmer's first novel, The Dream of Perpetual Motion, and I did not like it much. Seven years later I confess that it was more a case of I didn't get it. I was ignorant of the steampunk genre back then so had no way to determine how or if his steampunk setting was any good. Compounding my ignorance, I somehow missed that it was a retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest not to mention that as of 2010 I had not read The Tempest. My apologies to Dexter Palmer. I will give the novel another read one of these days.
Version Control on the other hand blew me away. I did not even mind the obvious fact that Palmer was intending to blow as many minds as he could. Though the novel is set in a near future time (including self-driving cars, an internet dating service whose actual moneymaker was data collection sold to political and marketing clients, and a President who appears to people personally on their hand-held devices to wish them Happy Birthday and give them words of wisdom about their "private" worries) this is a love story steeped in science.
Rebecca, who had to go back to living at home after college because she could not find a job, met Philip on the dating site where she also finally got a job. Philip is a mad scientist deeply involved with quantum mechanics, string theory, and developing an invention he calls the "causality violation device" but which the press calls a time machine.
In Version Control, Palmer takes the ever and increasingly popular time travel trope into uncharted territory. He is still pretty wordy (he has a PhD in English lit from Princeton University, so), he is still cramming everything under the sun into his story, and his writing style is still a bit pedestrian though he has his lyrical moments. But he has written a highly entertaining story with perplexing twists and turns and made me even try to understand the science.
When the surprising conclusion I did not even see coming signaled the end of the novel, I felt like I would rather keep reading Version Control for the rest of 2017 rather than start another book.
(Version Control is available in various formats by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)