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It's 1988 and Jeff Winston works at his local radio station, bored with the way his life has turned out.
While on the phone to his wife, he has what seems to be a heart attack and dies, but instead of that being the end of poor Jeff Winston, he wakes up back in 1963, young again and at college.
He is twenty-five years younger but has twenty-five years worth more experience to call upon.
He knows the way the world will be shaped, he can gamble on events he already knows the outcome to, buy stocks in products he knows will take off, save politicians from assassination, and much, much more.
The world is his oyster.
Until he reaches 1988 again, dies, and reawakens back in 1963, no more than a teenager but with the knowledge and experience of over fifty years under his belt.
Is this good fortune or a curse?
It's got to be said, the premise is excellent, a plot that heavily influenced the movie "Groundhog Day" with Bill Murray.
Grimwood's novel is brilliant in what it goes out to achieve.
The novel is fresh, never lingers too long in one place and certainly never outstays its welcome, but by the end I was still a little disappointed, undernourished if you will.
There was a chance here to make something that could have been a whole lot more.
There were a lot of 'what if's that were never explored and were given up on, like seriously changing the past, or turning suicidal after years alone, and perhaps the idea of someone endlessly repeating his or her life, perhaps for thousands of years, quite appealed to me in a storytelling kind of way.
It worked brilliantly in "Groundhog Day", and nearly every possibility was covered there (even though that was just one day repeating over and over), but with twenty-five years to move around in, you would have thought that more topics could have been covered.
As a time-travel novel, it doesn't really succeed because of this, and I would certainly recommend Gerrold's "The Man Who Folded Himself" instead.
However, as a piece of literature, it is character-driven and brilliantly written.
Overall, the characters Grimwood creates are excellent and appear very real, but sometimes the novel as a whole felt like it didn't quite have the scope to use the premise more fully.
Nonetheless, this is an excellent piece of work and a great read. Certainly worth the effort.
This is my favourite book of all time, I read it at least once a year, usually around New Years for some strange reason - possibly due to the renewal factor of that time of year.
Previous reviewers have given fully detailed accounts of this story, so there's not much to say except that reading this book can be a life-affirming experience.
Jeff Winston has to re-live his life again and again, knowing each time what has happened to him not only in his 'original' life, but in each life that he has had to 'Replay'.
Each experience leads him to experience each Replay differently, as he becomes enlightened, more cynical, experiences futility about his ability to change destiny (eg. to attempt saving JFK), and all of this leads the reader to also analyse how they would feel in these situations and perhaps also to analyse their own lives and what they are getting from it, perhaps changes that may be needed.
The fact that he then meets another 'replayer' and the course that their relationship takes through their consequent replays, is deep and sometimes - to me at least - rather distressing and very emotional. I have not once finished this book without a great river of tears.
This is a book that can reach down to your very soul and make your feel as if you yourself are experiencing all of the very many emotions that Jeff Winston has to experience, from lost parenthood to lost love.
Give it a go - you'll find it more than rewarding, and I'll bet you can't just read it once, because every read throws up different emotions and highlights different sections of this book.
It's a classic, and simply the best book I've ever read.
Replay by Ken Grimwood is my all time favourite novel.
It begins with the death of the main character in the book, a guy by the name of Jeff Winston, a 42-year-old newsreader for a local radio station. On the 18th October 1988 at 1.06pm Jeff suffers a heart attack whilst sitting at his desk on the phone to his wife.
This rather odd start to this novel takes a dramatic turn when Jeff wakes up again in bed. Realising that he hasn't died after all he looks around at his surroundings, which look oddly familiar. There's an old song playing on the radio and a poster on the wall that Jeff recognises as being similar to one that he'd bought when he was at college. It's at this point that it dawns on him that he is in fact in the same room that he stayed in at college. His immediate thoughts are that this must be some extremely elaborate joke being played on him, but then his roommate Martin walks in. Martin had committed suicide 7 years previously in 1981 and yet here he was standing in front of him looking the same as he did back in the old college days.
Jeff finally realises that he has woken up in the year 1963. He realises that not only has he been impossibly transported back in time but that he remembers everything that is going to happen for the next 25 years too. All sorts of possibilities occur to him. Can he change history? Can he use his knowledge to his own advantage? Can he make himself rich and powerful? It seems that the possibilities are endless. If indeed he is about to relive the last 25 years of his life then this is a perfect opportunity to do things right the second time around. The first thing he does is to make a number of bets on a number of major sporting events. Knowing in advance the outcome of events like the World Series means that he is quickly able to amass a small fortune. He uses this money as starting capital to invest in stocks and shares and within a few years is one of the wealthiest people in the country. He continues in this new life and in 1988 on the 18th October at precisely 1.06pm he dies again only to reawaken in 1963 again.
In each replay Jeff attempts to live his life in a different way and aspires to achieve more than he had in his first and previous lives, never knowing for certain whether the current replay of his life will be his last. Even though he knows in general terms what the future has in store for the world at large, Jeff finds that fundamentally the events in his life or lives are as uncertain as they were in his first. In trying to understand the inexplicable process by which he comes to relive his life again and again he comes instead to a better understanding himself. He finds that his predicament is essentially no different to any other person on the planet in that like everyone else he is looking for the reasons for his existence and trying to find meaning in his life.
Replay is the ultimate fantasy about what we could do if we were given a second (or third) chance to live our life. It's a novel that contains many messages. It tells us that we all have one chance at life and that we should spend it looking forwards to the future instead of dwelling on the mistakes of the past. It tells us that whilst we can control certain aspects of our destiny, not every event can be foreseen and hence our lives will always contain an element of risk, of surprise and of uncertainty. It tells us to live in the moment and to enjoy each day because each day is a new opportunity to change the path that we are on. Finally it reminds us that we all have to make choices and that the choices made are what define who and what we are. Although sold/marketed as a Sci-Fi novel, readers who do not like the Sci-Fi genre shouldn't be put off by this as the 'science fiction' part of it probably only accounts for about 5% of the novel. Instead this book is about a spiritual understanding of the human condition with philosophical undertones and a bit of romance thrown in for good measure.
Replay was Ken Grimwood's most successful novel. Written in 1988 it quickly gained cult status and was the inspiration for the Harold Ramis comedy 'Groundhog Day' staring Bill Murray and the 2004 thriller 'The Butterfly Effect'. It was voted 'Best Science Fiction Novel' in 1988 and in 2000 Replay was voted 43rd on the list of the Internet top 100 SF books and as more and more people have become aware of the novel it has slowly moved up the list. In 2003 it had reached 19th place. The premise of the book was so original and the story at times so heart-rendering that the paperback copy of the novel is the most prized possession on my bookshelf.
Rumours of a film version of this have been going around for years with Brad Pitt in the lead role, but so far nothing definite has ever been announced.
Sadly, Ken Grimwood died in 2003 aged 59 and was working on a sequel to Replay at the time.
The book is unlikely to be in your local bookshop but can be ordered online from Amazon at a cost of around $10
"Jeff Winston was on the phone with his wife when he died" begins Ken Grimwood's 'Replay'.
Confusingly, Jeff then wakes up in a strange, but at the same time familiar, bed. It doesn't take him long to realise what happened: that he died at 1:06 PM on October 18th, 1988 and somehow has woken up in his college dorm room at some point in 1963 complete with memories of his entire life.
This causes Jeff some problems. What does he do? How has this happened? Is there a way back?
In trying to explain these things, Jeff begins to realise that these matters are beyond his control but not, he hopes, beyond his understanding. Trying something different this time around, Jeff builds himself a vast fortune, starting with bets on sports events and eventually "upgrading" to the stock market. However, things don't go according to plan and he misses out on the chance to make a good impression on the girl who was his wife in his previous life, so he chooses another path. Eventually, at 1:06 pm on October 18th 1988, Jeff dies again
and awakes in 1963 once more.
'Replay' is what I see as an adventure without any action. Jeff gets to relive his life again and again, each time choosing to take a different route through it. He tries different ways of living, meeting new people etc. at the same time as avoiding previous mistakes. How many times have you questioned one choice over another? What would have happened if you'd chosen one school over another or if you'd taken that chance to go travelling rather than staying at home? In this aspect, 'Replay' is about second chances and facing up to the choices you make, but there is more to it than that.
I really enjoyed the book because, not only did I think 'Replay' was simply a great story, but that the characters made decisions not completely unlike those I imagine myself making under the same circumstances. More than one book or film has been ruined for me by the character making seemingly confusing decisions, and thankfully, this is not one of them. The tale is told with ease, merging the thought provoking subtext effortlessly with the entertaining story. Characters float in and out of the story as each life is relived; some are the same each time and others have subtle differences based on the differences between one "life" and the next. All of this adds to the reading experience.
Bearing in mind that this book was written long before the likes of Groundhog Day and every single time-travelling episode of any sci-fi series you could mention, it does score highly for originality. Additionally, while my copy of the book is marketed as part of Gollancz's 'Fantasy Masterworks' series of books, potential readers shouldn't be put off by that label. The time-travel is simply a device of the story and no science or magic is hinted at. I think that those who tend to avoid sci-fi or fantasy stories will be pleasantly surprised at this and it's better to think of this book in terms of the underlying messages of second chances, making choices etc. much in the same way that Groundhog Day is about teaching a man to love and be happy rather than time-travel.
I've re-read this a few times now, and it's still as entertaining and rewarding as it was the first time. Thoroughly recommended!
At forty-three Jeff Winston is tired of his low-paid, unrewarding job, tired of the long silences at the breakfast table with his wife, saddened by the thought of no children to comfort his old age. But he hopes for better things, for happiness, maybe tomorrow...But a sudden, fatal heart attack puts paid to that. Until Jeff wakes up in his eighteen-year-old body, all his memories of the next twenty-five years intact. If he applies those memories, he can be rich in this new chance at life and can become one of the most powerful men in America. Until he dies at forty-three and wakes up in his eighteen-year-old body again.