For most of us in the west, the manner in which life is channeled through the internet and the way media and people around us perpetually reinforce the perceived importance of science and technology, are now commonplace. In tandem with our daily social interaction at work or school, we think nothing of maintaining a wide variety of online profiles/personalities, being social without being physically present, walking in a bubble of headphones, mobile phone or other gadgetry, and, generally speaking, existing at a virtual distance from tangible existence. On the other end of that line, the related activities are being measured to greater and greater detail, to the point nearly everything we do is quantified in some fashion by somebody, often even ourselves. Personal as well as Big Data being collected for a variety of purposes, our identities are scattered to social, corporate, consumer, and bureaucratic winds, and reconsolidated in one form or another for a variety of purposes. Corporeal existence seemingly the last bastion for the idea of self as a whole, even self-perception renders that subjective. Enter Dexter Palmer’s superb 2016 novel, Version Control.
Rebecca Wright is an ordinary millennial. Growing up in suburban New Jersey to a largely normal family, she goes to university, does relatively well, makes meaningful friendships while studying, and graduates believing a career is waiting for her. Living with her parents while working a wide variety of part-time jobs throughout her 20s, Rebecca is nevertheless able to maintain her bffs from university. The girls regularly going out for drinking and fun, the dynamic starts to change the older they get. One by one the friends start relationships that slowly split the group apart, mostly through a dating website called Loveability. Eventually, Rebecca gives in and creates her own profile. Meeting the experimental physicist Philip Steiner, things take an unexpected turn in her life. Phillip older than Rebecca by a few years, and possessing a personality far differently tuned from her own, Rebecca’s grounded, relaxed view contrasts heavily with his purposeful and abstract mindset. But their marriage is only the beginning of changes in Rebecca’s life.