Book Review: Replay

I'm a giant sucker for all things time travel. One of my favorite novels of all time 11-22-63 by Stephen King focused on a very finite couple of years in time. Alternatively Replay by Ken Grimwood follows Jeff Winston who dies of a heart attack in 1988 at the age of 43 and wakes up as his 18 year old self. The twist of this time traveling novel is that their isn't a DeLorean to drive to the past but instead his life continues to rewind to his college dorm until October of 1988 where he will eventually die again of a heart attack and start over again. 

Each Replay for Mark is vastly different. The world around him is the same but his decisions are vastly different. For example the first time he travels back he decides to bet big on sporting events (like in Back to the Future II) and starts his own financial company called Future Inc. The second time he goes for love and family, and so on and so on. The book feels like a cross between Back to the Future and Groundhog Day. But more then anything it really does make you think. If I was to wake up at 18 and have the ability to replay my life what would I do. 


What's probably the most fascinating (no spoilers I promise) is the heartbreak. Just by telling you that Mark gets to replay his life means that anyone he loves in one life he will have to start over with at 18 years of age once he reaches 1988. A pretty crazy idea right?

To me though Replay is haunted by this amazing idea for a novel. Or in other words Ken Grimwood bit off more then he could chew. I think the 20+ year time frame that Mark gets for each replay is far to vast for him to make each replay compelling. And even with some twists half way through the story the end of the novel left me disappointed. The closure the book gives feels inconsistent with the rest of the novel. It felt like he had a great idea but couldn't figure a clean way to wrap it all up.

I truly enjoyed Replay more for the thought provoking concepts that it brings up rather then for the novel itself. Which is a shame because the base concept of the novel is beyond fascinating. 

All life includes loss. It’s taken me many, many years to learn to deal with that, and I don’t expect I’ll ever be fully resigned to it. But that doesn’t mean we have to turn away from the world, or stop striving for the best that we can do and be. We owe that much to ourselves, at least, and we deserve whatever measure of good may come of it.