Replay – Ken Grimwood

I do love a good time-travel story. A middle-aged man has a heart attack and dies – and then wakes up again as a young man back in his college days. Once he figures out what has happened, he sets about figuring out how to deal with it. He’s got an amazing opportunity to replay his life, fixing all the mistakes and maybe becoming rich too. (If it happened to me I would definitely be buying quite a lot of Bitcoin.)

So life works out better the second time around, but it’s not too surprising when, many years later, he gets to middle age – and dies again. Now we are in Groundhog Day territory, over a much longer timescale. And as with the film, he starts wondering if this is going to keep happening and how he can stop it. It is fun to see how he deals (repeatedly) with the other people in his life. I always find it quite poignant in these kinds of stories wondering what happened to the rest of the world – if somebody tragically died, and he goes back in time and prevents the death, then was there ever really a tragedy? Our whole way of talking and thinking about time is fundamentally linear, so it’s really hard to answer these sorts of questions.

There are more twists in the story just to complicate things. He starts to realise that the replay loops are going to stop at some point, but he (and we) don’t find out how until it happens. And even if the ending of the book is a bit trite, the journey is worthwhile. The development of the simple initial idea is really fun to read and think about.

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