Replay (novel)

Replay (novel)

infobox Book |
name = Replay
title_orig =
translator =

author = Ken Grimwood
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Science fiction, Novel
publisher = Arbor House
release_date = January 1987
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 272 p.
isbn = ISBN 0-87795-781-9 (hardback edition) & ISBN 0-575-07559-7 (paperback edition)
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"Replay" is a novel by Ken Grimwood first published by Arbor House in 1987. It won the 1988 World Fantasy Award.

Plot summary

"Replay" is the account of 43-year-old radio journalist Jeff Winston, who dies of a heart attack in 1988 and awakens back in 1963 in his 18-year-old body as a student at Atlanta's Emory University. He then begins to relive his life with intact memories of the next 25 years, until, despite his best efforts at cardiac health, he dies of a heart attack, again, in 1988. He immediately returns to 1963, but several hours later than the last "replay". This happens repeatedly with different events in each cycle, each time beginning from increasingly later dates (first days, then weeks, then years, then ultimately decades). Jeff soon realizes that he cannot prevent his death in 1988, but he can change the events that occur before it, both for him, and for others.

During one subsequent replay, Jeff takes notice of a highly acclaimed film that has become a huge success at the box office. The film is written and directed by an unknown filmmaker, Pamela Phillips, who has recruited George Lucas and Steven Spielberg to work on the film before the two shot to stardom with their own projects. Because the film did not exist in previous replays, Jeff suspects that Pamela is also experiencing the same phenomenon. He locates her and asks her questions that only a fellow replayer would know, confirming his suspicions.

Pamela and Jeff fall in love and are convinced that they are soulmates. Complications arise when they notice that their replays are getting shorter and shorter, with Pamela not beginning her next replay until well after Jeff. Eventually, the two decide to try and find other replayers by placing cryptic messages in newspapers. The messages, which seem very vague to anyone who is not a replayer, generate a fair amount of dead-end responses until the pair receives a letter from a man who is clearly knowledgeable about future events. Jeff and Pamela decide to visit the stranger, only to discover that he is confined to a psychiatric hospital. Surprisingly, the staff does not pay attention to his discussion on the future, but it soon becomes clear why the man is institutionalized when he calmly states that aliens are forcing him to murder people for their own entertainment.

In a later replay, the two decide to take their experiences public, giving press conferences announcing future events in explicit detail. The government eventually takes notice and forces Pamela and Jeff to provide continued updates on foreign activities. Although the government denies responsibility, major political events begin to transpire differently, and Jeff attempts to break off the relationship. The government refuses, and the pair are imprisoned and forced to continue providing information.

As future replays become shorter and shorter, the two are left to wonder how things will eventually unfold -- whether or not the replays will ultimately end, and the pair will pass into the afterlife -- or if the current replay is, in fact, the last.

Literary significance & criticism

Orson Scott Card, reviewing "Replay" for "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction" (May, 1987), wrote, "Jeff makes a quick fortune gambling on sure things; this time the 1970s and 1980s are filled with the glamour and disappointment of wealth. Until he dies again. And again wakes up in 1963. And again, and again, replays of his past life, each time wiser than the time before, each time surprised by new joy, new pain. Children he raised and then lost, lovers who don't want him the second time around. Desperately lonely with all his knowledge that he cannot share, he searches for others caught in the same endless loop of lifetimes. And finds some. Grimwood's style is clear, penetrating. He leads us through Jeff Winston's lives with great skill, never lingering too long with any one experience, never moving so rapidly that we cannot taste the flavor of each passage through the decades. "Replay" is "Pilgrim's Progress" for our time, a stern yet affectionate portrait of the lives we lead. When I finished it, I felt I had been moving with the hidden rhythm of life, that I had seen more clearly, that I had loved more deeply than is ever possible in one short passage of years."

"Publishers Weekly" reviewed, "Grimwood has transcended genre with this carefully observed, literate and original story. Jeff's knowledge soon becomes as much a curse as a blessing. After recovering from the shock (is the future a dream, or is it real life?), he plays out missed choices. In one life, for example, he falls in love with Pamela, a housewife who died nine minutes after Jeff; they try to warn the world of the disasters it faces, coming in conflict with the government and history. A third replayer turns out to be a serial killer, murdering the same people over and over. Jeff and Pamela are still searching for some missing parts of their lives when they notice they are returning closer and closer to the time of their deaths, and realize the replays and their times together may be coming to an end."

Allusions/references from other works

The novel has an obvious influence on Harold Ramis' comedy-drama "Groundhog Day" (1993), and variations of Grimwood's plot premise can also be seen in the Japanese film "Taan", aka "Turn" (2001), and the 1993 TV movie "", adapted from Richard A. Lupoff's short story.

Awards and nominations

It won the 1988 World Fantasy Award.

The novel has been included in several lists of recommended reading: "Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels" (1988), "Locus" Reader's Poll: Best Science Fiction Novel (1988), Aurel Guillemette's "The Best in Science Fiction" (1993) and David Pringle's "Ultimate Guide to Science Fiction" (1995).

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