Review: Replay

Replay by Ken Grimwood

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I started replaying Majora’s Mask a few weeks ago and that was enough reason for me to start looking again for books, movies or other games with a similar central idea. Replay appears to be the original work of fiction which examined this particular kind of thought experiment this exhaustively. In Replay, it’s not three days or a single day like in Groundhog Day –which this book directly inspired; it’s 25 years.

The concept sounded very exciting — if you’re fan of this narrative gimmick like I am, of course. 25 years sounds like enough time for anyone to be able to do pretty much anything they want in and live comfortably. What could possibly go wrong with Jeff’s new life, what could possibly produce any kind of drama and make the book interesting? Well, let’s just say that long-term relationships, including families, don’t exactly thrive on such circumstances…

Every replay was a mystery and the possibilities were spreading out in front of me together with Jeff every time he returned to 1963. But I could not always identify with some of his choices or the way he opted to handle some matters, like

meeting his wife on the first replay or him being content with Judy but subsequently forgetting about her almost completely.

I also thought it was sloppy writing having all the sporting events conveniently turn out exactly the same way every time. In what kind of cause-effect comological system do teams of players play exactly the same way, the same horses come first 25 years in 25 years out? This story could have a lot of extra worth as a feast of alternate history but unfortunately it does not deliver anywhere close to what it could, apart fromthat little bit close to the end when

Jeff and Pamela go public. Now that I think about it, I don’t know how much different I would make every replay if I was writing this story. Too much difference between every time and the story loses its main antagonist (the repetition of time itself) and becomes boring, too little, ditto.
I gusss Ken Grimwood (great name for a writer, btw) wanted to have the best of both a clockwork and a quantum theory world.

Another of my qualms:

Pamela wasn’t the most likeable character. I even found her annoying at times, especially closer to the end, when she gets angry at Jeff for approaching her old self (and he rightly protests). It got me thinking, what do people love in another person? Their personality, the memories they have together? Would it ever be possible to compare and contrast the two? Would it be considered cheating going out with a version of your loved one that has no recollection of you, you know everything about them and the newer version catches you red-handed? Interesting questions, interesting questions.

You know what? Now I want to watch Star Sea. It would be my favourite movie ever. I bet I’d also be one of the geeks that liked Continuum.

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