Read Remark Book Review - Version Control by Dexter Palmer

Book Review: Version Control by Dexter Palmer

One-sentence summary:
A small group of scientists are building a causality violation device (cough, cough, time travel machine) and things seem just a bit…off.

Ha! Turns out Spivey was right all along.

With his big, talkative mouth that yammers to the point of becoming so much noise, Spivey was the actual voice of reason.

Don’t worry, I’m not giving away the story by saying that.

But it’s funny. In Version Control, we follow these highly gifted, erudite scientists as they science all over the place (shows you how much I know about science).

Their intelligence is intimidating and isolating, so the people in their lives often feel left out, including Rebecca, the main scientist’s wife.

Rebecca struggles with vices, specifically alcohol and complacency. Through her, we get the chance to play a morbid “would you rather” game. (Hiding this bit because of a possible mild spoiler, for those extra sensitive)

Let’s come back to Spivey. In this world of scientists and spouses and personal ennui, we have the talkative security guard, who has his own hypotheses, shrugged off by others as chatter.

In our conceptual look at time travel, we view the past with full knowledge of the events, thinking we would surely know better and do better than those who messed it up in the first place.

We’re the ultimate time-travel armchair quarterbacks.

Spivey’s arguably the best of them all. He knows the most enlightened, unracist, unhomophobic, tree-hugging citizen of today’s society would not be the same person if beamed to the past. They wouldn’t have the 21st Century morals, mores, and perspective, but would be instantly part of the time’s thinking and acting.

Speaking of enlightened, the look at race in Version Control is interesting.

It’s a world where all races follow their pursuits equally (relationships, professions, passions). The opportunity is there for everyone.

But race is still a thing (and we see that sexism is, too). Carson doesn’t get to be a writer. He’s expected to fill a role as a black writer opining on the black experience. He can’t be a scientist. He has to be a black scientist (something even my friend Spivey gets wrong, expecting Carson to fill some unspoken bond or stereotype). And he can’t be Kathryn’s boyfriend. He has to be her black boyfriend.

Can’t he just be?

Carson’s professional merits are strong, regardless of race. His personality quirks and shortcomings are his own, not his race’s. His fate is quite unsatisfying.

Version Control offers a strange and somewhat unsettling mirror. In all that we can attempt to go back and make right, there will still be plenty wrong.

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