Tor.com has been doing amazing things with short fiction, and Patchwerk is no exception. A machine called the Palimpsest threatens the very fabric of reality in this exciting SFF adventure. When Dran Florrian heads to the hold of the TransContinental to check on his creation, Palimpsest, the result of 5 years of hard work which cost him his marriage, he’s accosted by fellow scientist Harlan Dorric, and his ex-wife Karen. Dorric wants the machine for himself, but Dran refuses to let it go without a fight. What follows is an exciting cat and mouse game through different realities and layers of the multiverse.
Tallerman manages to pack quite a bit into this short, fast-paced read, and we’re introduced to a handful of different “versions” of Dran, Karen, and Dorric as Dran tries to prevent the hijacking of Palimpsest. Eventually, Dran must use Palimpsest to keep it from falling into the wrong hands, and he does, in fascinating reads. It’s no small feat to write about the multiverse without confusing the reader, but Tallerman manages to do just that. I love the detailed “worlds” that each iteration inhabits, and not only is it an exciting read, the characters, which could have been two dimensional in order to facilitate the story, are more than that, especially Dran and his complicated ex-wife, Karen, whose motives are much more than they initially seem. I would love to see more stories in this world, and there is plenty of material to mine for that. If it seems like I’m being a bit vague about Palimpsest, I am, because the “machine” and what it can do, are much more fun if they’re discovered by the reader. We’ll leave it at “multiverse.” This story is like an onion, with layer upon layer of complex worlds, just waiting to be explored, and at its heart is a scientist that hopes his work will be used for the benefit of mankind, and will do anything to make sure it’s not used for nefarious means. Also, the final scene is fantastically clever.
This is a bite sized morsel of sci-fi, but it sure is a tasty one.