Sunday, June 27, 2010

Recently Read: Replay

by Ken Grimwood - this is #23 of 2010

In Ken Grimwood's Replay, a middle-aged man named Jeff has a heart attack, dies, and wakes up in his college dorm room to find himself in his eighteen-year-old body. Sounds great, right? Who wouldn't like a chance to redo everything from the beginning, knowing how to avoid all the mistakes and tragedies you'd suffered the first time through? That's exactly the myth that Replay sets out to bust. Jeff starts out by doing all the cliched things that time travellers do when they're new to the trade: making an exorbitant amount of money betting on sports, investing in companies he knows are bound to succeed, and generally living an indulgent lifestyle. The only problem is, nothing he can do significantly alters the original timeline, and that heart attack (along with another restart) is waiting for him just as it was in his first iteration. As Jeff repeats his life again and again, he starts to realize that no matter how hard he tries, he can't force his relationships to be perfect, nor can he prevent the creeping isolation he feels as the lone "repeater." The book has a lot in common with David Gerrold's The Man Who Folded Himself, but takes a more sedate approach. Gerrold wanted to convey how bizarre and alienating it would be to have control over your future and past, where Grimwood seems to say that living the same life again and again would actually grow pretty mundane. Replay isn't the most original book, but it does a great job of showing how the dilemmas that Jeff faces aren't really all that different from anyone else's. In the end, dwelling on repairing the past only causes Jeff anguish, and he's only really at peace when he learns to live for the future.

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