Replay by Ken Grimwood

Found this one on my Amazon feed. I feel like I should be getting some kickbacks from Amazon as much as I talk about them, however, I am not sure they really need the publicity. Anyways, I was enamored with the title in this one and the cover art as well. I had not heard anything about this one, but when I was talking to a friend recently he asked me if I had read it. That conversation quickly moved Replay up my list of books to read.

Ken Grimwood was born in Dothan, Alabama in 1944. After reading some of his life on Wikipedia, I think it is fascinating that he seemed to incorporate much of his actual life into his characters and his stories. I say that and it could be that he just did that for Replay. Throughout his career he only wrote 5 novels including an unpublished sequel to Replay. According to Wikipedia he was said to be somewhat of a recluse and did not like the public light. Replay was by far his most famous novel and won the World Fantasy Award in 1988. He seemed like an interesting guy but sadly he passed away from a heart attack in 2003.

This one opens up where Jeff Winston, the main character dies, literally within the first few words of the book. From there he starts again to replay his life starting in college. At first he is confused on what is going on, as I think most would be. Soon he realizes where he is and understands that he is replaying his life. So just to see if events were going to still happen as they did he makes a large wager on the Kentucky Derby, and wins. Jeff replays many lives thereafter, but there seems to be a problem. His replays are getting shorter, not only that but he wonders if there is anyone else out there that has his same gift or curse.

This is by far one of the best books I have read this year. There are some really interesting ideas throughout the story, but most importantly while there is certainly a sense of science fiction, it is about people and life. While reading I could not help but look back and reflect on my own life, thinking about all the different decisions I could have made. I think the one I most wish for is investing in Bitcoin early. I read recently that investing $1,000 at some point in Bitcon would have made you a Billionaire today. Pretty awesome. But for the most part I think most of what I would have changed would have been financial, and that would have been quite easy knowing how things would have turned out. Think about investing in Google and Amazon back in the day, and Bitcoin as well. That would set you up for life, but what then? What would you do with your new life now that you don’t have to worry about money anymore?

That is another issue that the book covers, albeit somewhat subdued. I liked how despite the somewhat philosophical and metaphysical themes that were introduced there was very little diving into this discussion. Usually I would say this was a major disappointment, but not for this story. That would have almost ruined the story in my opinion, instead it was more of a fun read. With that being said I also liked how this one was written. For me there was just the right amount of description and dialogue. From a straight reading perspective it was a very easy read and I was able to fly through pages easily. While some may want a deeper dive into the above topics I felt the way the story progressed was fine. As I read I felt myself thinking about these issues on my own, rather than the writer having to use his words and follow his thoughts. This kept the story going while not getting it bogged down with deep thoughts, yet they were still there. I liked this style, and for the most part I have only see stories where these deep thoughts are always on the page, so this was a different aspect. The important thing is that these ideas are there, but it really just depends on what kind of reader you are. If you are reader who only looks at surface value, then you will not be disappointed. But if you like deeper thoughts, they are there but you have to contemplate them on your own time, so again you will not be disappointed either. There is something for everyone.

Also, this was the first book in a while that I could barely put down. I found myself wanting to read the next chapter just to figure out what was going to happen. The writer did a great job of building suspense while still being able to move the story forward. Kenwood did a great job of writing a fun and interesting story that anyone could relate to.

I also liked the characters in the story. Jeff seemed like an ordinary guy that could have easily been me. Also I felt like if I were given the opportunity that he had been given I would have done mostly the same thing. First he made some money then had a little fun. To me that is always important in a story no matter the topic, is are the characters relatable. As I said the characters in the story were just ordinary folks, and I think given the situation I would have done the same things they did.

By the end of this one I was really wondering how the hell the writer was going to wrap it up. It almost felt like he was backing himself into a corner as I could not predict what was going to happen next. as there were fewer and fewer pages left to read. This made me want to read more, but also kept me guessing. The ending was on one level subdued, but there is a prologue that was more exciting and got the reader thinking again. So I felt the ending covered all the bases for the most part, but I was a little disappointed for the overall ending. But honestly I do not know what would have made it better, so I think that it ended about the only way it could have.

I really enjoyed this one and you should check it out if you get a chance. Despite its age, it was published in 1988, so its almost 30 years old, but it still holds up. This is a really fun read that will have you wanting to read more and turn the page. Great characters and a great and fascinating overall plot, what more could you ask for.

Manik

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