Replay (Grimwood novel)
First edition cover
|Cover artist||Larry Ratzkin|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (hardback & paperback)|
|ISBN||0-87795-781-9 (hardback edition) & ISBN 0-575-07559-7 (paperback edition)|
|LC Class||PS3557.R497 R4 1986|
The novel tells of a 43-year-old man who dies and awakens back in 1963 in his 18-year-old body. He then begins to relive his life with intact memories of the previous 25 years. This happens repeatedly with the man doing different actions in each cycle. The premise was explored earlier by Richard A. Lupoff in his 1973 short story "12:01". The novel was a bestseller in Japan, and its time-loop concept has been referenced as a precursor of Harold Ramis' comedy-drama Groundhog Day (1993).
Characters and story
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, Starsea, that has become a huge success at the box office in 1974. The film is written and produced by an unknown filmmaker, Pamela Phillips, who has recruited Steven Spielberg to direct and George Lucas, as a special effects supervisor, 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 about future films which only a fellow replayer would know, confirming his suspicions.
Pamela and Jeff eventually fall in love and become 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 to 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 he thinks 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. Eventually, the replays become so short, Jeff and Pamela relive their original deaths repeatedly in succession—until Jeff finally has a heart attack which he manages to survive. While he calls Pamela soon afterward, she lets him know that she has also survived, and that their replaying wasn't a dream. While it seems ambiguous whether or not they will meet again, Jeff eagerly awaits entering an unpredictable future with endless possibilities.
- 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.
Awards and nominations
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).
Sequel and possible film adaptations
Ken Grimwood was working on a sequel to Replay when he died from a heart attack in 2003 at the age of 59. In 2010 Warner Bros. reported that it was planning on a film version starring Ben Affleck. The screenplay for this adaptation has been written by Jason Smilovic. In 2011 Robert Zemeckis was in talks to direct, but as of 2016 no movement seems to have been made on the project.
- Groundhog Day
- World Fantasy Convention. "Award Winners and Nominees". Retrieved 4 Feb 2011.
- Obituary in The Independent
- Ben Affleck hits Replay? - Female First
- Brodesser-Akner, Claude (April 29, 2011). "Robert Zemeckis Heading Back to the Future With Replay". New York Magazine. Retrieved April 29, 2011.