The acclaimed author of The Dream of Perpetual Motion returns with a compelling novel about the effects of science and technology on our friendships, our love lives, and our sense of self.
Rebecca Wright has reclaimed her life, finding her way out of her grief and depression following a personal tragedy years ago. She spends her days working in customer support for the Internet dating site where she first met her husband. But she has a strange, persistent sense that everything around her is somewhat off-kilter: She constantly feels as if she has walked into a room and forgotten what she intended to do there; on TV, the president seems to be the wrong person in the wrong place; her dreams are full of disquiet. Meanwhile, her husband's decade-long dedication to his invention, the causality violation device (which he would greatly prefer you not call a "time machine") has effectively stalled his career and made him a laughingstock in the physics community. But he may be closer to success than either of them knows or can possibly imagine.
Version Control is about a possible near future, but it's also about the way we live now. It's about smart phones and self-driving cars and what we believe about the people we meet on the Internet. It's about a couple, Rebecca and Philip, who have experienced a tragedy, and about how they help - and fail to help - each other through it. Emotionally powerful and stunningly visionary, Version Control will alter the way you see your future and your present.
"Mind-bending.... A compelling, thought-provoking view of time and reality." (Booklist)
"Far more than a standard-model time travel saga.... Palmer's lengthy, complex, highly challenging second novel is more brilliant than his debut, The Dream of Perpetual Motion.... Palmer earned his doctorate from Princeton with a thesis on the works of James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon, and William Gaddis. This book stands with the masterpieces of those authors." (Publishers Weekly)
"A Mobius strip of a novel in which time is more a loop than a path and various possibilities seem to exist simultaneously. Science fiction provides a literary launching pad for this audacious sophomore novel by Palmer. It offers some of the same pleasures as one of those state-of-the-union (domestic and national) epics by Jonathan Franzen, yet its speculative nature becomes increasingly apparent.... A novel brimming with ideas, ambition, imagination, and possibility yet one in which the characters remain richly engaging for the reader." (Kirkus Reviews)
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A Phildickian World and More
If Philip K. Dick hadn't spent so much of his energy chasing that dark haired girl, working feverishly under the effect of amphetamines to put out enough novels to pay alimony, and laboring under the weight of a culture defined by cynicism and ennui, perhaps he could have produced something as polished as this.
After all, the book has alternative timelines, a U.S. President who interrupts all citizens' phone calls and television shows (and as an apology pays for dessert), and simulacra that are created at a dating site. But it is also carefully crafted, well-paced, and polished. There was one plot diversion that was not well enough explained, but all in all, this was a very enjoyable, intelligent novel. (I do need to point out that I hadn't heard the word "desultory" used since Simon & Garfunkel's first album, and it was used three times in the book - but ok.)
The narrator did a great job of shifting through the characters and their accents and distinguishing features. And I will definitely be getting Palmer's other novel.
This one is a keeper