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REVIEW: Replay by Ken Grimwood

REVIEW SUMMARY: An excellent novel spawned from an intriguing idea!


BRIEF SYNOPSIS: A man dies and gets to relive the last twenty five years. Again and again.

PROS: Captivating premise; well-told; interesting
CONS: Incorrectly labeled as science fiction
BOTTOM LINE: A great book.

So, what would you do if you had your life to live over again? What would life have been like when you were twenty if you had the experiences of a forty five year old? Would you take the same path? Make the same decisions? Was school really worth it if you could rake in a fortune betting on sporting events for which you knew the outcome? Could you change history?

All of these questions are addressed head-on in this compelling 1987 story based on the intriguing idea that you could relive your life. Jeff Winston plays a journalist who dies in October of 1988…then wakes up as his twenty five years younger self in his old college dorm room. Jeff soon realizes that this is not a dream. He has truly died and come back to life. And he has retained his memories from his former existence. He uses that knowledge to make wiser choices and accomplish things that he never dreamed of doing or never got around to doing. Twenty five years later, Jeff dies again…and wakes up twenty five years earlier again; another chance to live life making all the right choices, and another death. Again and again. Will he ever get it right?

It’s easy to imagine being bored by watching the same scenes over and over again. Fortunately, the author avoids the potential pitfall of such a premise by making the Jeff Winston character lead a significantly different life each go-round. Naturally, each successive life is looked at with the perspective that experience (both the character’s and the reader’s) brings. The writing style is detailed but fast-paced. I found myself engrossed with this man’s journey through his lives. On a philosophical level, this story deals loneliness and what matters most in life. This gives the story much more depth than a casual “This is Your Life” jaunt and propels the book to greatness.

One minor bit of marketing manipulation…My copy of the book has it labeled as both science fiction and as a World Fantasy Award winner. In my opinion, it’s pure fantasy. There is no science involved here at all (excluding one fleeting supposition that this is some alien experiment).

That’s irrelevant, though. Replay is a truly enjoyable book.

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.
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