Book Review: Version Control by Dexter Palmer

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4/5 Stars.

“Dexter Palmer does not do simple.” I read an NPR review of Version Control that started with this simple declaration, and damn is it true.

Let’s just get this out of the way up front: Palmer is verbose. At first, this was a distraction, and I even found myself skimming through entire pages, but eventually once I became fully engaged in the story, I didn’t mind it as much. He goes off on lots of tangents, most of which are extremely interesting and thought-provoking, but still, it’s a lot.

Now that that’s out of the way: I thoroughly enjoyed this brilliant, profound sci-fi novel. It’s sometime in the near future, and Rebecca Wright suddenly begins to have this strange feeling that the world as she knows it is off-kilter. Meanwhile, she’s slowly drifting apart from her physicist husband, who spends most of his waking time in his lab working on a time machine that he’s certain will never work.

But this isn’t your average story about time travel. Since Palmer doesn’t do simple, it’s much more complex — from the actual science behind the machine to the ground that he covers thematically. It’s a novel about a time machine, yes, but it’s so much more. It’s about relationships and philosophy and ethics and race and technology and spirituality and identity. Palmer’s world and the characters who inhabit it are so well-constructed that I’m truly in awe of his brain. (Seriously, this guy is brilliant; I’d love to sit down and talk with him.)

Like most good sci-fi, Version Control uses the genre as a vehicle to explore important questions about humanity. If you’re up for a challenge, this one yields significant rewards.

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