Version Control

Dexter Palmer
Version Control Cover

Version Control - Dexter Palmer


Character driven story of science and scientists. These folks are trying to measure causality violation, aka the result of time travel, and the discussions around that and parallel worlds are more science than fiction.

Nearly the first half of the book is the characters, the science, and some cool near-future world building, from autonomous vehicles to online dating. The characters are unique and interesting, with perspectives on science, religion, race and gender issues. The story moves slowly as history fills in the gaps, then starts to accelerate to a major turning point. After that, it becomes hard to put the book down, and that's more than 200 pages of interest.

This is a "time travel" novel, but not in the conventional sense. It also isn't a conventional parallel world novel, and that's where the title comes in. Like the software archive mentioned in the second half of the story, there can be only one "version" checked in at a time. The method of "choosing" the version comes back to the original experiment of causality violation, through time travel. That said, there is a great discussion of the considerations of killing Hitler.

I really enjoyed the thought put into the world. Green and red outlined license plates, personal messages from the President, "Reagan's" instead of $20's, even the seceding Dakotas - Palmer gives a natural feel to this near-future world. This is realized most when that feel changes partway through the book. The science, when mentioned, is all accurate. No technobabble or Trek speak here. That said, I'd like to know the full story behind one made-up item, Smullin's principle - "Science fiction is a fantasy in which science always works."

While widely acclaimed, this book falls into a gap between "Literature" and "Science Fiction", and it did not receive award nominations in either category. That is a shame, because this is pretty great stuff for those of us who like both.