Tuesday, February 9, 2010

REPLAY by KEN GRIMWOOD



Page one:  "Jeff Winston was on the phone with his wife when he died."  It is 1:06 p.m. on October 18, 1988.  Three pages later and twenty-five years earlier Jeff will wake up in his college dorm room, eighteen years old again, his whole life ahead of him.  It's spring, 1963, and Jeff knows exactly what's going to happen, like a book he's already read and doesn't feel much like rereading.


Or does he?  It doesn't take much to alter the story, even on this first day back.  With a little planning, a little capital, and somebody to place the bets for him, Jeff quickly amasses a small fortune based on his foreknowledge of several key sporting events that year.  A multimillionaire by twenty-one, Jeff and his partner form an investing firm, Future, Inc., and Jeff lives out his second life a rich man.


And on October 18, 1988, at 1:06 p.m., he dies.  Again.  And comes to himself at college, in the spring of 1963.  Again.


In what could be a gimmicky and cheap conceit, Jeff lives his life over and over, each time differently, rarely better, sometimes worse.  He lives, he learns, he dies; each time he awakens with the memories and knowledge of all his previous lives.  But Replay is not gimmicky, and it's not at all cheap.  Rather, Replay is a thoughtful study of fate, self-determination, free will, what it means to be a good person living a good life.  Jeff lives lives of fabulous wealth, of decadent hedonism, of quiet isolation.  He attempts to influence world events, only to discover that certain events will happen.  He meets a fellow replayer who is his soulmate, and together they move through their lives, trying to make sense of it and to make a difference.


Replay is intelligent, thought-provoking, and beautiful.  It is a truly satisfying book that leaves one wanting more.


IF THIS INTERESTS YOU...


If you like time travel/alternate reality/alternate history, there is a whole world of titles to choose from.  Two of my favorites: Glimpses, by Lewis Shiner, in which a man is able to go back in time to influence the course of classic rock history, with surprising results, and The Man in the High Castle, in which Philip K. Dick posits a post-WWII world in which the Axis won the war.

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