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Posts tagged 'Time Travel'

Version Control by Dexter Palmer

PalmerThe author earned his doctorate from Princeton with a thesis on the works of James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon, and William Gaddis. The complexity and depth of those writers is mirrored in Palmer’s 500-page novel, Version Control.

On the surface, Version Control is a time travel saga built around the lives of its two principal characters, physicist Philip Steiner and his wife, Rebecca Wright. Rebecca works for Lovability, a computer dating service. Much of the book’s social commentary and humor come from passages that deal with computer dating. By contrast, Richard is a physicist who heads a team of scientists tasked with building a time machine. No one on this team seriously believes the goal will be achieved but hopes their research will lead to developments in the future. All are single minded in their dedication to the project. Unlike her genius husband and his brilliant associates, Rebecca is a somewhat average young woman who meets Philip through Lovability. He falls in love with her, and finding his emotions a distraction to his work, proposes marriage. This does not bode well for Rebecca.

In the December 8, 2015 issue of Kirkus, the reviewer notes the book “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 as the novel progresses (while its characters apparently don’t).” The concept of time appears to be circular with different realities existing simultaneously. In different versions Palmer offers of a fatal car crash, Rebecca dies; in another, Richard does; in yet a third, their son, Sean, is killed. The plot weaves different possibilities with different outcomes.

Only at the end does the reader fully understand Palmer’s main themes. When Philip muses, “Ulysses is not a story, as much as a system of the world” (cited in Kirkus, December 8, 2015) he is speaking for the author. Palmer’s journey motif is brought to a new dimension and the depersonalization of society by social media, online dating, and the pursuit of pure science come to a spectacular end.

Time Travel  SciFy  Science Fiction  Sara's Picks  Fantasy

05/04/16
 

Iain Pears' Arcadia

PearsWriters Theatre is performing Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia through May 1. Stoppard’s 1993 play and Pears’ 2015 novel of the same name show many similarities. Characters move between worlds and time. Mystery and fantasy and poetry abound. Mathematics and scientific discoveries dominate the discussion and the action. Both works are multi-stranded stories that move well beyond Webster’s definition of arcadia as “a region or scene of simple pleasure and quiet.” Both the play and the novel are varied and thoughtful treats for the mind, told with wisdom and humor.

Pears’ Arcadia does not follow a linear structure. The book features three worlds, with some characters inhabiting more than one. It is a delightful romp through the woods in a pastoral world, a fascinating foray into a world of scientific advances and social disarray, an everyday story set in Oxford in the 1960’s. The novel moves beyond the expected boundaries of time and place; what is past, present, or future in any world is not clear.

The role of the Storyteller is central to the novel, as is Henry Lytten, a 1960s Oxford don, who writes fiction and invents a story about a place called Anterwold. In another part of the book, Anterwold exists as a real place. Oral history, the Story, and the scholars who interpret it are at the core of that world.  Of the other major characters, Angela Meerson is a psychomathematician who invents a machine that has the power to change worlds (parallel worlds and/or time travel), and Rosie Wilson is a young girl who is a key player in more than one world and time period.

Time Travel  Mystery  Historical Fiction  Gail's Picks  Fantasy  British Literature

04/13/16
 

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