Saturday, April 27, 2013

Replay, Ken Grimwood

ReplayJeff Winston was on the phone with his wife when he died. "We need--" she'd said, and he never heard her say just what it was they needed, because something heavy seemed to slam against his chest, crushing the breath out of him. The phone fell from his hand and cracked the glass paperweight on his desk. 

In 1988 at the age of 43, trapped in an unhappy marriage, Jeff Winston dies and wakes up to find himself in college at the age of 18. But all his memories of the next 25 years are still there. He has a chance to live his life again, avoiding many mistakes. He also knows which horse won every Kentucky Derby and who will win the World Series. Oh, and that the Vietnam War will happen and that Kennedy will be assassinated. Then he dies at age 43 and wakes up back in college again. And again. Why has Jeff been chosen to replay his life like this? That's the fundamental question here. Also, "What if you could live your life over again, knowing the mistakes you'd made before"?

Replay was another book recommended to me by Goodreads. And it was really interesting. I don't think there's a book with time travel that's quite like this. In many books, the character who time travels has to fear running into his/her younger self. That's not the case in Replay. Jeff literally has become his younger self, except he remembers everything.

I have mixed feelings about Replay. It was a fascinating book in some ways; I do really like time travel books, and this was a really interesting-sounding novel to me. But I don't agree with a lot of the messages that the book is trying to express. Basically, live life to the fullest while you've got it. This makes for a science fiction novel with many graphic scenes and a lot of indulgence. This book has kind of the same feel as A Spell For Chameleon. Every time a new woman is introduced, we get a detailed description of what her body is like. Aren't there more important things than that? Both books were published in the 1980's, which might have something to do with it.

Nevertheless, Replay was an absorbing novel, and it kept me reading. The first time it happens, Jeff basically makes millions of dollars off of bets and stocks that he knows are going to do well and messes around. But it's an empty existence, devoid of meaning or any real happiness. He has wealth, but nothing more than that.
But he also has a daughter who he dearly loves, which makes it all the more sad when he dies again.

Replay was somewhat depressing; the main character loses everything again and again. He makes money, has a beloved child, falls in love, and then it's all gone. The actual time traveling itself was really confusing. When he dies and goes back to 1963, does everything that happened vanish? What is the present and what is the future? Does that mean that time never advances beyond 1988 because Jeff dies and then it goes back to 1963. All this and more is explored in the later sections of the book.

Replay is a really disturbing book, especially in the second half. But it was also really compelling and really interesting. It raises a lot of questions that are really difficult for the mind to conceive of. I'm definitely glad that I read it.

Read Replay:
  • if you like science fiction
  • if you like books with time travel
311 pages, 4.5 stars.

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