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Roger's Version

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  999 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
As Roger Lambert tells it, he, a middle-aged professor of divinity, is buttonholed in his office by Dale Kohler, an earnest young computer scientist who believes that quantifiable evidence of God’s existence is irresistibly accumulating. The theological-scientific debate that ensues, and the wicked strategies that Roger employs to disembarrass Dale of his faith, form the s ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published August 27th 1996 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published August 12th 1986)
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The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel HawthorneGilead by Marilynne RobinsonWise Blood by Flannery O'ConnorA Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'Connor
Challenging Religious Fiction
15th out of 52 books — 37 voters
Rabbit at Rest by John UpdikeRabbit, Run by John UpdikeRabbit Is Rich by John UpdikeRabbit Redux by John UpdikePigeon Feathers and Other Stories by John Updike
Best of John Updike
45th out of 100 books — 4 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,673)
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- I'd like to talk to John Updike.

- Speaking.

- My name is Manny Rayner -

- Do I know you?

- No. I'm calling by intertemporal communicator from the year 2013. I -

- You'll excuse me, Mr. Rayner, I don't find this kind of thing particularly -

- Please don't hang up yet, Mr. Updike! I believe you're writing a book called Roger's Version.

- Yes, I am as a matter of fact. But I don't -

- You've nearly finished it.

- I was working on the final pages when you called. Now I -

- They're in a revolving restaurant
Feb 25, 2009 brian rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: science people. god people. curious people.
roger’s version concerns a young scientist who believes he can prove the existence of god on his computer. as he puts it,

“…these numbers are the basic physical constants (of the universe), these are the terms of creation...”

recurring patterns in these numbers, the glue of the universe, prove something beyond the mere physical, Dale explains, in hope of receiving a grant from professor of hereticism, Roger Lambert. as laughable as it sounds, his arguments are made convincing as updike is never
G.R. Reader
Nov 22, 2013 G.R. Reader rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Mom asked me please not to read this book, and I had respected her wishes up to yesterday. But when Manny posted his review, I'm afraid my curiosity finally got the better of me.

Okay... well, Mom did go through a pretty difficult couple of years when I was a baby, and she's said a few times that she knew Updike. But I mean, everyone in her generation did. It doesn't mean anything.

No, I just can't believe it. Not Mom. I refuse to believe it.

You know, maybe she was right. Here's a hot tip to all y
Christina "6 word reviewer" Lake
'Penis with a thesaurus' strikes again.
Jun 10, 2015 Lori rated it liked it
Roger Lambert, you might say, takes creepiness to new heights, or shall I say, depths. Despite a tenured professorial position and a fairly attentive wife, he can't seem to keep his hands off his nubile niece. Worse, he fails to protect the niece's tragic child from abuse. Roger is not what you might call a sympathetic character.
There is a strong note of misogyny and racism throughout this book, some of it seemingly projected by the author. Calling the child a "tarbaby", repeatedly referring t
Greg Z
May 07, 2016 Greg Z rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
You know, naturally, the premise won't be delivered upon: proof of God via math, science, computers, etc. (It's like one of those books about a book: you know going in you're never going to be able to read the book about which the author is writing.) Also, everyone here is unlikeable: they do and say unlikeable things. And the researcher himself has, apparently, just one singular attraction: a large penis of which he is particularly proud. (As if that will get him closer to God?) But it's Updike ...more
Mar 12, 2008 John rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the few books I didn't complete. I found the story somewhat disgusting.
Joseph Hellion
May 10, 2015 Joseph Hellion rated it really liked it
Put your seat-belt on! This trip inside the mind of a cynical professor of theology is not really a Sunday picnic. The food is of the heavy variety so you'd better have the stomach. What's on the menu this time? The old debate of science-religion : Cosmology, genetics, computer science and the old theology books in dead tongues. Add some sex, love, revenge and here you go. It's like Hawkings, Dawkins , The Bible and Game of Thrones in one book. It's like the carnal vs the spiritual in a sense. B ...more
Apr 26, 2015 Jafar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't read any Updike after I went through his Rabbit series. This book was a good reminder of what a masterful writer Updike is.

Even though the book is almost 30 years old now, the points that Dale, the Christian graduate student looking for a grant from the divinity department to prove the existence of God with computer simulations, raises — how staggeringly fine-tuned constants of nature appear to be in order to support the emergence of galaxies and stars and planets and eventually life —
Aug 30, 2007 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Roger's Version starts out with both barrels blazing, presenting two opposing sides (each persuading and well-constructed in its own right) of a God-vs-science argument between Roger, a jaded divinity professor, and Dale, a brash young grant candidate at his university. However, the book begins to bog down as outside forces in the characters' lives begin to chip away at Dale's once-unassailable beliefs and Roger's self-assured perceptions of moral superiority.
Like a lot of Updike's work, the bo
Ryan Splenda
Jul 11, 2013 Ryan Splenda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having never read anything by John Updike, I wanted to try one of his lesser known novels. I saw this novel at a flea market, and once I read the synopsis on the back of the book, I knew I wanted to give it a try.

I must say, I was very impressed by this novel. It dealt with the very heavy themes of religion and life. It was wonderful to see the numerous battles between the two main characters about proving the existence of God. Science vs. religion has always been a difficult topic for me. I hav
David Goetz
Apr 28, 2016 David Goetz rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: probably no one
Shelves: fiction
"By what you use, you are used, per carnem. Indeed, it has occurred to me that in my sensation of peace post coitus, of sweet theistic certainty beneath the remote vague ceiling, of living proof at Verna's side, I was guilty of heresy, the heresy of which the Cathars and Fraticelli were long ago accused amid the thunders of anathema--that of committing deliberate abominations so as to widen and deepen the field in which God's forgiveness can magnificently play. Mas, mas. But thou shall ...more
This is a book that I read once for fun and a second time to write a college paper for a religion course. Each reading gave me new thoughts on the religious debates between the two main characters (a divinity Professor and a computer science student). It's understandable that Updike would be capable of handling the (Karl Barth based) religious argument (religion figures into many of Updike's works) but it's amazing how he's able to handle the computer data arguments within this novel (I'm fairly ...more
Dec 28, 2013 Pavel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant portrayal of a learned, cynical, arrogant, adulterous and incestuous professor of theology, who lives a lie and becomes an accomplice in a case of child abuse. Still, one feels for Professor Lambert, his prevarications and distaste for his overenthusiastic student who misunderstands faith with proof of God's existence. The novel is also prescient, in anticipating recent hype over the question whether the universe can arise from nothing. Certainly Lawrence M. Krauss could recognize hims ...more
Christian Schwoerke
Apr 05, 2015 Christian Schwoerke rated it liked it
Updike revisits the themes and characters from Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, and in this of his three Scarlet Letter novels (A Month of Sunday and S are the other two), he takes on the case of Roger Chillingsworth, here translated to Roger Lambert, a college theology professor, formerly a minister. His marriage to Esther (one of two aspects of Hester Prynne), 14 years his junior and without any religious inclination, compelled him to leave the church for the security of the university, where h ...more
Mar 05, 2009 Apallant rated it liked it
Can't say that I am an Updike fan. This book had wonderful challenging dialog about the differences between science and religion and their relationship to God. That was the highlight of the book. Updikes characters were not ones you care much about. I also found that I lost the thread of the story and had to work to keep going on because I didn't care that much. Clearly Updike is really intelligent and has an amazing command of the language. It was just too much for me.
Mar 08, 2015 Gary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm always on the lookout for books that don't follow a tired formula, and I can honestly say that I've never encountered a novel like this. Where else can you find a novel with deep discussions of Christian theology, theoretical physics, and computer technology, punctuated with scenes of explicit sex?

Roger Lambert is a professor at a distinguished East Coast divinity school (which sounds a lot like Harvard). A former Methodist minister, he was resigned his ministry after an affair that led to t
May 27, 2014 Mike rated it liked it
Man, Updike wrote a lot of books. Most of them are good, but I've had to resign myself to the fact that none of them are going to be as great as his Rabbit novels. Still, his extraordinary talent for description and imagery makes even a lesser book like this one worthwhile.
David Kent
Oct 27, 2015 David Kent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting examination of the disconnect between theory and practice, with a focus on religion and family. Presented as the story of a student who wants to prove God through science, the book is more about the hypocrisies of every day life. Probably the tenth John Updike book I've read (whom I once met because he lived in my home town and I played high school soccer with his son). The book is classic John Updike, replete with ruminations and self-examination.

In some ways the book leads as you m
Susie Han
Aug 26, 2014 Susie Han rated it liked it
Great writing...if you can stand his misogyny and racism. Its such a pity that his beautiful form is mired by such ugly values.
Matthew Everett
Jun 15, 2014 Matthew Everett rated it liked it
Shelves: main-shelf
Beautifully written with some interesting philosophical topics, but the ending was not satisfying to me in the least.
Feb 25, 2016 Rlcohen1235 rated it liked it
God! How revolting Updike's characters are! Roger's Version shows off some beauties--an Evangelical computer scientist who wants to find God in the machine, a divinity professor and incestuous adulterer who wants to humble the computer scientist, an adulterous second wife, and a slutty, rebellious niece who abuses her out-of-wedlock, bi-racial child. That the reader eagerly follows the exploits of this group underscores the effectiveness of Updike as a storyteller and as a commentator on the mes ...more
Kwaku Acheampong
Oct 07, 2014 Kwaku Acheampong rated it did not like it
As much of a fan I am of Updike, I couldn't even get through this one. Once again, adultery takes over the novel like some annoying fog that clouds whatever development the plot or the characters could be experiencing. I felt as if Updike's descriptive talents were wasted quite a bit in this one. I felt as if I was just reading extremely explicit sex scenes for characters I absolutely despised. And when that wasn't happening, I was listing to their circular narrow minded existential arguments th ...more
Nov 28, 2013 Keelan rated it it was ok
I really like Updike's writing style, and there was much about this book that I enjoyed. It's not one of Updike's better known novels, and I heard about it from a mention in the New Yorker article about Philip Roth, "The Book of Laughter: Philip Roth and his friends", by Claudia Roth Pierpont in the Oct. 7 issue. Roth Pierpont wrote "Although they saw each other only occasionally...Roth wrote a note or made a call when he was particularly impressed by something that Updike had written. He rememb ...more
Oct 28, 2013 towner77 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel
Well written, extremely well researched and developed, and comfortably disquieting. Roger Lambert turns out to be so twisted and manipulative in every relationship that it just seems unbearable that he could hold a high ranking position in a world renowned Divinity School. It's as if he's chosen to master theology in order to litigate his way through his vices and perversions. Although I really like the book, I hate to believe that there aren't individuals in this life that can find grace in the ...more
Shane Eide
Apr 22, 2013 Shane Eide rated it it was ok

Divinity professor, Roger Lambert, seems to have a great deal of problems. Being hassled and annoyed by a young science-minded evangelical student named Dale about a grant for a project involving the proof of God’s existence is a minor inconvenience on the scale. It would seem that Dale is just as determined to find God behind every biological and cosmological corner as Roger’s wife, Esther, is determined to corrupt Dale’s already fragile faith with fornication.

As the divi
LK Hunsaker
May 09, 2009 LK Hunsaker rated it really liked it
In this rather strange story, Dale, a grad student at a religious college, begs for a grant to "prove" God's existance using the school's mainframe computer. He starts the request through the story's narrator, Roger, an ex-minister and current professor specializing in religious heretics. He's leaned the way many college professors lean and is not so very religious anymore. He left his first wife by way of having an affair with a non-religious highly vain woman, which intentionally resulted in h ...more
Jun 05, 2010 Lars rated it liked it
I don't usually take the time to write reviews but feel I should qualify my rating a little bit. As with all of Updike's novels, there are moments (which may be understating it a bit) of absolutely brilliant writing like:

"From infancy on, Edna had had a particular carnal pungence, a scented sponginess to her flesh; when, she a bumptious thirteen and I a recessive fourteen and condemned to spend all of August with my father and my vapid stepmother (whose name, Veronica, seemed as faded and priss
i think this is my very first updike novel, that i recall anyway (love his shortstories) and is based on a fairly old trope of usa college professor having extramarital sex. predominatly it is male prof/female student, lots of times male prof is also marrried.
roger is a divinity college prof in a run down but kinda nice ne city (yale?, sounds like yale sort of) he tells this whole story, so it truly is his version. and same old trope too, with a twist. male prof roger goes for his half-niece, wh
Jun 29, 2009 Gina rated it it was ok
Updike died a few months ago amidst ecomiums so high, it gave me the guilts that I had read only one Rabbit book and several short stories. So when I happened upon this title, Roger's View, in a library book sale, I bought it.
Two interesting but not contrary ideas came swimming to the surface of my consciousness as I progressed in the novel. Undoubtedly the man could create unforgettable characters and most mundane/miraculous situations into which to place them. The players in this story---ver
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John Hoyer Updike was an American writer. Updike's most famous work is his Rabbit series (Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and Rabbit Remembered). Rabbit is Rich and Rabbit at Rest both won Pulitzer Prizes for Updike. Describing his subject as "the American small town, Protestant middle class," Updike is well known for his careful craftsmanship and prolific writing, havin ...more
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“The eddies his breath set in motion were destroying the smoke sculptures I was erecting. The pipestem was warm on my lower lip and I thought of lip cancer. I often think about how I will die, what disease or surgical procedure will have me in its tarantula grip, what indifferent hospital wall and weary night nurse will witness my last breath, my last second, the impossibly fine point to which my life will have been sharpened.” 0 likes
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