Margot's Reviews > Replay

Replay by Ken Grimwood
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Jun 04, 09

bookshelves: sci-fi, contemporary-fiction, lad-lit, 2009, world-fantasy-winner
Read in June, 2009

Grimwood's pseud-scifi novel Replay is a "lad" oriented novel involving a lot of gambling, alcohol, and sex with a plethora of women. The story begins when protagonist, Jeff Winston, has a heart attack at the tender young age of 43 and then begins to replay his life (over and over) starting at the age of 18. These replays would be the miniscule sci-fi part of the story. The plot general follows a "what if?" path, in which Grimwood explores the various tracks a life might take, if one were able to live over and over but making different choices that led one down very different life paths.

Unfortunately, the first chapter of Replay didn't leave me dying to turn the pages to find out what happens next. I found the protagonist, Jeff, rather whiney and helpless to enact change in his own life--both just before his death and just after his first reawakening to find himself eighteen years old again. But several of my co-workers thought it was very good, and it did win a World Fantasy Award.

I've determined that I'm about 20 years too young to really enjoy this book. Grimwood really takes to heart the importance of detail and specificity in his writing. But for me, he takes it to a fault. Not only does he say what kind of car everyone's driving, but even what style of pants, cardigan, and shoes they're wearing. I understand that these details have some importance to the story. But I can also see that he's depending on the nostalgia of the reader to connect them to the character. It's like one long walk through the two decades of history before I was born. Since I'm not the readership he's aiming for, I'm left to slog away at the heavy-handed details and historical events that I know were important but honestly don't care that much about. And he doesn't bother to try and make me care.

I have to say, though, that the ending seemed like it was going to be disappointing, but Grimwood came through and pulled in the time-related twists that I doubted, but hoped, he would include. However, the Epilogue was very lame. I don't think it added anything to my understanding of or feelings about the story. Only annoyed me because his very brief snapshot of Peter Skjoren's first moments of his first replay felt so out-of-sync with Jeff's own. Would Peter really think, in those first moments, that "he had only a bright new future, whose pitfalls and opportunities he knew intimately, and could avoid or seize as the occasion demanded"? No. By using this distant narrator for the closing of the story, Grimwood stepped away from the narrative style of the whole rest of the story and left me with a bad literary aftertaste!



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05/22/2009 page 14
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