Replay

by josephpmartino

Grimwood, Ken, Replay, ISBN 978-0-68-816112-5.

This is an old book, not a new one. It was originally published in 1988. It was a selection of both the Literary Guild and the Doubleday Book Club. It also received numerous other awards. I just found out about it, hence this review.

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to live your life over, but with your memories of the first time? To avoid the mistakes you made the first time? To warn people of disasters and catastrophes? It sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? This book dumps cold water on the  idea.

The author uses a common Science Fiction theme: the person who returns to their younger self, but with their memories intact. However, he plays several variations on that theme. In this story, the event that sends him back is his death from a heart attack, and he ends up back in his college freshman self.

The first variation is the one everyone thinks of: the man who knows the future can get rich. And Jeff, the main character, does just that. By betting on the right sporting events, then by investing his money in the right stocks, he becomes a multimillionaire. Despite that, his life is empty. He is unsuccessful in preventing the Kennedy assassination. He attempts to repeat the meeting he had with the woman he married the first time around. He botches the meeting and loses her. He eventually marries a woman who comes from a rich family, who went to the “right” schools,  and was turned into a cookie-cutter replicate of all the other products of t those schools: superficial and interchangeable. They have a daughter who is his pride and joy. Then he has another heart attack and again finds  himself back in his college freshman self, with his fortune and his daughter gone as though they never existed

I won’t run through all the other variations the author plays, but they do raise a lot of questions. Would you want to repeat your college years, with all that studying and taking exams and so on? The mistakes you made “the first time” helped form your character. If you avoid them, does that change you?  What happens if the government finds out that you know the future? Or the Mafia?  Would the Universe even let you change some major event like the Kennedy assassination? Lots of things to think about here.

I recommend the book. It’s well written, and I enjoyed it. I wish I’d read it when it first came out, but better late than never. If you missed it “the fist time,” you have a chance to correct your mistake. Read it now.

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