This book crushed me It sparked such a deep feeling of loss and regret in me Made me examine my own life, my own decisions, missteps and regrets and wasted time and opportunities Life is short, and this book will remind you of that It will remind you of lost loves and what could have been It will remind you that life should be lived to the fullest, that you shouldn t ever waste a single day It will teach you about true loneliness And finally, it will teach you about acceptance I loved it. 5.0 stars I did not go into this book with high expectations, despite the numerous awards this book was nominated for and won Well I just finished it and I ABSOLUTELY LOVED IT Calling it the best time travel novel ever does not adequately explain the emotional depth of the novel This was an incredibly well written, extremely well plotted novel that is at times both gut wrenching and uplifting HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION Nominee Arthur C Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction NovelNominee Locus Award for Best Science Fiction NovelWinner World Fantasy Award for Best Novel 4.5 One of my favorite premises is a character reliving their life over and over So this book was on my radar.I really liked Grimwood s take on it as, for once, I could relate with the main character s decisions and he added a nice twist to it.It did becomephilosophical and would recommend it if, as a literary fiction or contemporary reader, you re trying to get into sci fi. I had very high expectations for this 1988 World Fantasy award winner The main character, 43 year old Jeff Winston has a heart attack and dies, only to wake up in his college dorm room 25 years earlier with his current memories intact He replays his life several times throughout the book trying to correct the mistakes of his previous lives After the second replay , I got tired of reading about Winston s miserable life and sexual escapades and wished he would just die and stay that way There is a message in the story life is short, so live it to the fullest The preachy tone of the story and the characters constant self indulgence left a bad taste in my mouth If you liked The Time Traveler s Wife, you will probably enjoy this I didn t. Jeff Winston WasAnd Trapped In A Tepid Marriage And A Dead End Job, Waiting For That Time When He Could Be Truly Happy, When He DiedAnd When He Woke And He WasAgain, With All His Memories Of The NextYears Intact He Could Live His Life Again, Avoiding The Mistakes, Making Money From His Knowledge Of The Future, Seeking HappinessUntil He Dies AtAnd Wakes Up Back In College Again The horse race was good.I expect that I am just brimful of wealthy self centered mediocre individuals undeservedly basking in privilege and power But, all that irksome name dropping worn thin I get it There s a disproportionate lack of insignificant villagers in the past lives of people who claim to remember them Nobody wants to be part of the three serf families that the Rostov s neighbor traded for a dog.When I m disengaged and uninterested in the story, it s awfully easy to find low hanging targets to knock But, they not the reason that I dislike this book I never had a problem with similar character flaws in other stories where someone is gifted youth But, Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Dr Heidegger s Experiment never expected me to admire those characters.I m going with it s all a dream within a dream I like George Berkeley s theory of subjective idealism, what little I know of it from Sophie s World And, I appreciate the point made by Welwyn Wilton in a comment on her review.One of the things I believe is that a novel is written by both the author and the reader, who brings to the novel whatever views or worries or perceptions s he they has The unique point of view the reader brings changes the novel we none of us ever actually read the same novel It s like looking at the same river Impossible. There was a period of time where I made myself think through what I wanted, realistically, and how to achieve them, ultimately Were you one of those kids who wanted to set the world on fire and initiate changes for the better, if not for fame then for purpose I was saddened by how scaled back my plans became once I was a bit ground down by circumstances Then I set it all aside and half numbly addressed day to day tasks.Recently, I was in a situation where a man boy poured his little heart out to me about the woman he hopes will love him back They d gone out on dates, although I ascertained that she may not have realized they were dates Poor lamb Since the conversation had progressed to the point where I d become invested in his happiness and wanted this to work out for him, I grilled him about whether he was also considering her interests, if he wasattracted to her looks and common activities than her self, blabbidy blah blah, and what his goals were and whether they meshed with hers Hey, he seemed to be relieved to unload and I was obliging Totally not in a twss way But, the reason I brought that up, he turned the future goals question back to me and caught me flat footed I don t think my stammers were a good return answer I couldn t remember what I d worked out before, my realistic goals Too much numb trudging.And then this book A man dies in middle age and wakes up back in college to live his life again He works his way through money, sex, children, nihilism, and it turns out that he keeps dying at the same time but wakes up older and older, skipping at first days then years ahead I liked that it s not as flashy as you d expect He didn t suddenly figure stuff out or have circumstances that ridiculously fell into place for good or ill, nothan you can kinda reasonably expect if you had future knowledge There was still an undercurrent of mediocrity, which made the story work for me I think the conclusion was to love what you have That s a message that can survive my numb days. This one s about time travel.Now, as a reader of comic books, this phrase has a chilling effect on my brain, because time travel stories are usually but not always the last refuge of the unimaginative or gassed out writer, but this book has been sitting on my shelf for a while and heck, because Stephen King wasn t available, even Dean Koontz has some nice things to say about it on a cover blurb.The story unfolds like so Henpecked, depressed dude dies in the middle of a phone call with his wife, he wakes up in his college dorm in 1963, he lives his life differently, dies again at the exact same date and time and wakes up circa 1963 He lives off money betting on sporting event outcomes he remembers and plays the stock market on his inside knowledge of companies that did well over his previous lifetime IBM, Apple, etcBecause this last paragraph is the paraphrased back cover description we are coming up on Spoilertown Take the exit ramp to the bypass now During one of his replays he meets a woman who also experiences the same phenomena and during their multiple lifetimes together they try to not only figure this stuff out but search for others who replay as well.And they find one, but he s a crazed serial killer who thinks his ability is a gift from aliens and he s paying them back with human blood Because I m on the shallow side, I was thinking, damn, now these two are going to be chased down and forced to outwit a lunatic for the rest of their replayed lives Woo Hoo Um, no It was not to be.It was back to hitting the familiar historical notes and taking a turn at amateur philosophizing and mixed metaphors and trying to lead a different life this time around.If you ve read Stephen King s time travel book, 11 22 1963, you might recognize a few minor plot points taking a run at stopping the Kennedy assassination, using sports betting as a way to make ends meet something King did infinitely better This book predates King s by about 15 years.Grimwood toys with some interesting concepts along the way, but never really gets to the why Which is something I don t ordinarily complain about, I don t have to be spoon fed everything Here it just feels like a cheat like going to your favorite restaurant in anticipation of a grand meal only to find that it was closed by the Board of Health.Although, there s some good story telling here and there, the book is weighed down with awkward dialogue, a chunky prose style and a nagging feeling that the author had a thesaurus handy writing sentences that run smoothly until a jarring word choice makes the reader feel like they ve just been smacked in the back of the head.The ending is worthy of a throat punch.If you loved the movie Groundhog Day time looping FTW or thought that 11 22 1963 was the bee s knees, you may give a moment s pause before you pick this tome up.A really strong two and a half stars rounded down. I read this book for a book club I m in, and it surprised me that I hadn t heard about it before I bought the book and I read it and I wanted to like it There had been a lot of hype when it came out in 1986 and won the World Fantasy Award of 1988 I like fantasy I write fantasy But I don t think this book is actually real fantasy I don t think it s science fiction either I think it is a failed attempt to write a story where a human being finds redemption through an unusual method I feel in a way as if I should not review this book, because so many people have given it such high ratings that a negative comment will make me seem inconoclastic and picky or, worse, small minded since it comes from a fantasy writer I don t think I m any of those things I want to be surprised in fantasy, that s all I would like to be surprised in every book I read, excited by a beautiful turn of phrase, startled by a concept, taken to a new place in my own mind And Replay didn t do that for me.There are three things wrong with Replay, in my opinion a the character b the plot c the writing.The character never excited me by any growing maturity He was ordinary, dull, selfish, and he just knew too much and not enough For instance, after 23 years of life, he wakes up as a teenager remembering bits and pieces of his old life, and he 100% remembers what horse won the Kentucky Derby that year I could have accepted that, if the character had shown a major interest in horse racing all the way through the book But no He never even notices a horse anywhere else, except that each time he wakes up he needs some cash so he bets on that same horse Did I believe that No Did it surprise me not to believe it No Why not Because the writing is pedestrian, and I do not expect surprises from pedestrian writing I will merely say that each time this character replays his 23 years no spoilers on this since you find out about replaying on page one he remembers the important things that any normal person would remember from his life before dying The memory of his old replays could help him change could make him see the need to grow, to become something better than he has been before But he never uses what he knows about world events for the good of others, only for his own self destructive good He always falls into the same trap, even when he decides to go and live off the land a decision we re not privy to, and therefore find totally out of character for this sexually charged man The trap It s selfishness.What we know about this man can be expressed in one sentence He has to have what he wants What he wants is usually sex Clarification Okay, he has to have sex with perfect women Clarify stillOkay, if they are only perfect on the outside, he tires of them and goes on to choose exactly the same kind of woman he had before Eventually, and this may be a spoiler, though I do think it is predictable but if you haven t read the book maybe you shouldn t read from here he finds a woman who is a replayer too Together they make the world a much worse place They don t intend to, but anyone with half a brain could see that their actions together were bound to result in terrible things Spoiler ends here.And at the end of the book, has it changed him Page 309 of 310 and I quote Christ, how he yearned to hear a song, any song, that he had never heard before Think about this A man has lived a lifespan consisting of his first childhood and let s say ten replays Let s say that gives him 240 years of human existence There is no way that in 240 years he could ever manage to listen to every single song ever sung or written, even at a full 24 hours a day Even if he changed his preferences from, say, the Beach Boys to blues and rock and roll or even to medieval chants, there is a whole world of blues and rock and roll and medieval chants out there That s what I think is wrong with this guy. He never changes his preferences He keeps re doing what he always did, which is to find stuff for himself, and it s always the same kind of stuff for himself He s unable to choose the right stuff to make him happy, because he doesn t realize that he has to use that stuff to make other people happy too Only once does he try to use his foreknowledge unselfishly regarding the assassination of President Kennedy Otherwise, he doesn t really care about the world and its issues he doesn t let himself worry about changing the future The whole book with one major exception is about how he wants stuff for himself Only by divine intervention why, please does this change And even after he s given what he wants, the chance at a whole, full life without repetition, he whines about his past all those songs, all the same.Redemption has to do with choices, with people choosing to change I won t say that the hero of this book never chooses to change anything at all, but basically, he never chooses to change himself Things happen to him He lets them He lives from one thing to the next He never says, Enough of this I m going to figure out why it s always me who is replaying He never even changes his attitude toward it It s always a torment It s never possible for him to see it as a gift Had he done this, the book would perhaps have lived up to the movie Groundhog Day, which despite its fluffy name, is a movie worth watching at least once a year for the rest of your life The plot I say it doesn t work Why Because a plot asks why and why not Does the hero ever do anything to try to find out why he has to replay this section of his life I m going to say something that I imagine most thinking people will expect, having read this far, but if not, this next part could be thought of as a spoiler Here it is The hero meets another replayer A woman, natch Together they start looking for others They find one It s the only truly great bit of writing in the book I loved it It gave us an explanation for the replayers It even almost made sense, despite the fact that many readers won t be familiar with the concept as yoga understands it and as it is explained using the Bhagavad Gita by the one person who understands But since most people who don t understand the yogic concepts have read Shakespeare I ll paraphrase the next part All the world s a stage, and we but men and women acting on it taking our exits and our entrances This reasoning, provided by someone who even tells our two replayers how and why the world is a stage for a certain group of people watching the replayers in the bloody stage of history they live in, a stage they make even worse, is an exciting concept I so hoped it wouldn t turn out to be a cop out But, sadly, it did The thought never runs through our replayers minds again The explanation was just insane But I hung onto it I hoped I saw that there was an epilog I didn t dare read it ahead of time in case I was wrong I got to it at last And no The whole explanation had been presented and thrown away End of spoiler.So, to me it is a total mystery why this book won the world fantasy award It is mediocre writing that forces you to live with a guy you really don t much like for all those pages, and there is never an explanation for the plot hook, and the hero is a sad, flawed character who never takes his own life by the horns and makes himself strong. I m a total sucker for time travel novels, and Replay is a dam clever one filled with unexpected twists and traumatic experiences.After a fatal heart attack at age 43, Jeff Winston wakes up baffled to learn he is not dead, but a young college student again back in 1963,no spoiler hereand as he begins to relive his life over and over and over again, he becomes a bitprepared and curious each time Wanting to know the cause of this unusual phenomena, he finally stumbles across an interesting clue resulting in an outcome that gives special meaning to his tumultuous recurring lives.Replay is a fast moving 300 pages that can in no way compare to my two favorites in the world of time travel,Outlander and 11 22 63but I still found it to be a unique and enjoyable read I m glad I did not miss Life Is So Short
Ken Grimwood 1944 2003 worked in broadcast journalism for a number of years before retiring in 1988 to write full time He wrote five novels, including the award winning Replay, Breakthrough, and The Voice Outside.
- 311 pages
- Ken Grimwood
- 22 February 2019 Ken Grimwood