Monday, March 31, 2008

Replay (book)

Replay (1987)
Written by Ken Grimwood

Replay is based on an idea we probably have all had:  what would I do if I could live my life over?

Ken Grimwood takes that and gives it a wonderful twist:  what would I do if I could live my life over and over and over and over?

In the book, 43-year-old Jeff Winston, unhappy with his marriage, suffers what he thinks is a heart attack.  And waked up back in time, as an 18-year-old with all the knowledge of what will happen in the future.

Jeff quickly does what you might expect:  bets on sporting events and turns himself into a millionaire. It's handled quite well:  Jeff doesn't remember all the winners and sometimes doesn't bet because of it.  He also ends up making a hash of his personal life.  And when he gets to be 43, it all happens again.

Grimwood plays through the variations with a lot of thought and a great deal of interesting detail. The world changes each time Jeff travels back, due the choices Jeff makes. He even finds that someone else is going through the same thing, a woman whose presence he discovers when movies are made that had not been made in his timeline,  and they spend lifetimes together because they are the only people who can share the secret.

And things advance; it's clear very early on where things are going, but the ending goes back to the original scene, and pulls out a wonderful and fascinating twist that reflects back on the entire experience.

It's also a damn good read.  I picked it up and finished it in a weekend and found it to be a book I just couldn't put down.

Replay ended up winning the World Fantasy Award, and is on many best fantasy book lists, but does not have the fame it deserves.

Grimwood took his time following up and it was eight years before his next novel, Into the Deep, was out. It didn't make a particular mark (I didn't much care for it), and two others after that also made little impression.  Sadly, Grimwood died young at age 59.  Even sadder, he was working on a sequel to Replay when he died.

(Note. I had hoped to include a picture of the original hardcover edition, but I can't seem to find it on the web.  This is from a later paperback.)

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