I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Jeff Winston was 43 and trapped in a tepid marriage and a dead-end job, waiting for that time when he could be truly happy, when he died.
And when he woke and he was 18 again, with all his memories of the next 25 years intact. He could live his life again, avoiding the mistakes, making money from his knowledge of the future, seeking happiness.
Until he dies at 43 and wakes up back in college again...
This book doesn’t have a catchy title or an alluring cover, but I certainly enjoyed it once I convinced myself to get started on it. The premise of the novel, that the main character is reliving a chunk of his life over and over again, isn’t a new idea but Replay extends it further that previous versions that I had read.
It reminded me strongly of an H. Beam Piper short story (I thought) and I went in search of that story in my Piper collection. Turns out I was conflating TWO of Piper’s stories, namely Time and Time Again and Hunter Patrol. In the first, a man is badly wounded fighting in World War III and when he awakes he is somehow back in his 13 year old self, trying to decide what to do. In the second story, a man in a life-threatening situation on a battlefield is snatched by people from the future who want him to perform an assassination for them, and at story’s end there is some suggestion that he is now caught in a loop. Interesting ideas, but not fleshed out very much.
That is where Replay shines, in its examination of exactly how shocking this “rebirth” would be to the person experiencing it, how intimidating it would be to try to change history, and how difficult it would be to get other people to believe the whole situation. In Piper’s fiction, the boy’s father is rather easily converted, but in Grimwood’s version there is a lot of derision and/or incarceration involved for those who try to make themselves known, more realistic to my way of thinking.
Interesting ideas are pursued in the resilience of history (the protagonist tries to stop JFK’s assassination in one “replay” for example and fails) and the notion of branching universes being produced with each version. The notion of the “replay” reflects the burgeoning videogame culture starting to make itself felt in the 1980s. I wonder if the makers of the film Groundhog Day were familiar with Replay?
No. 217 of my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.