Saturday, March 11, 2006

Science Fiction: Replay

I just finished reading Replay by Ken Grimwood for the third time, and it was just as compelling this time as it was the first two times I read it. This is my favorite book of my 35 years of reading, and I have no doubt I'll be picking up my tattered paperback copy to read again in a few years. Although Replay is officially categorized as science fiction, it transcends its genre incorporating in-depth characterization, suspense, romance, and the timeless question of life's purpose.

The book opens in 1988 with 43-year old Jeff Winston dying suddenly of a heart attack while at the desk of his job as a news radio journalist. Moments later, Jeff wakes up in his freshman dorm room in 1963 in his 18-year old body but retaining his memories of the life he recently left with its disappointing career, financial troubles, and failed marriage. This is a book about second - and third and fourth - chances, as Jeff replays those 25 years of his life again and again. He finds this bizarre situation and his unique foreknowledge to be both a blessing and a curse as he relives his life many times over.

More than anything else, Replay is a book about choices. Jeff makes different choices each time he replays (after all, it would be impossible to relive your life exactly the same once you knew what was coming up) and experiences vastly different outcomes, all the time struggling with questions about what is happening to him, what it means, and what he should do.

The copious pop culture references throughout the book are entertaining, and the plot pulls you in immediately and doesn't let you go. Most of all, though, I love this book because it is so endlessly thought-provoking. Right from the start, you can't help comparing Jeff's experiences to your own life and wondering what you'd do in his situation. Could you just hang out with 18-year olds again, retake all your college courses, go through the motions? Given another shot at life, what would you do differently and how would it turn out?

As Jeff replays these years of his life, making different choices each time, he learns a lot about himself and about what's important to him. Although he stops aging at age 43, he continues to mature with each replay, experiencing many lives' worth of sorrow and joy. Although ostensibly a book about time travel, Replay is really a story of love and despair and hope. When you finally set this book down (after reading it all night), you're left with an appreciation of your own life and a desire to make the most of each of its finite moments.

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Buy Replay from Amazon or listen to a sample of the audio at the link.

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1 comment:

  1. This is a great review and the story sounds really fun to read. I'll have to add it to my wishlist :)