Science Fiction Book Review


Replay

(1987 (2005 reprint)) Ken Grimwood, Gollancz, 6.99, pbk, 272pp, ISBN 0-575-07559-7

First published in Britain in 1987 by Grafton Books, this edition is number 45 in Gollancz's "Fantasy Masterworks" series. I remember back in the 1988 hardcopy edition of Concatenation (no.2! Oh, we were so young...) that Rog Peyton's Andromeda Books took a full page ad and nominated Replay as Best Science Fiction Novel of 1987. Bearing in mind this is four years before the 1991 film Groundhog Day, Replay is effectively 'Groundhog 25-years'. Not that timeloop stories are rare in SF, but it was post-1990 before the device seemed to turn up regularly in episodes of Star Trek: Next Gen and the X-Files. I think Gollancz are right to present this as a 'fantasy' masterwork rather than an 'SF' masterwork, because there's no device or rhyme or reason for the 'groundhogging' of the protagonist. It just happens 'til it stops. What else do you do with a timeloop story? Whether fantasy or SF the point has to be to break out of the loop. So: Jeff Winston, a 40-something radio newsman, a dead-end job, feels trapped in a tepid marriage until he dies, the last thing he sees a fractured paperweight on his desk. And then he wakes up in 1963, eighteen years old again, in his room on campus with the Crystals singing "Da Do Ron Ron" through a mono speaker, but with all his knowledge of the future intact. He can live his life again, avoid previous mistakes, use his foreknowledge to make loads of money, maybe even change the course of history. But then he dies again, at just the same point in his life as before, and gets to take a third crack at life. And a fourth... This goes on for a while until he achieves 'happiness', which breaks the cycle. The book's epilogue is intriguing, but I won't tell.

Ken Grimwood was born in Florida in 1944 and actually was a radio journalist in California, in fact was news director for KFWB in Los Angeles, and won the World Fantasy Award for Replay. He wrote four other books: Breakthrough (1976), Elise (1979), The Voice Outside (1982) and Into the Deep (1995). He was working on a sequel to Replay but died in 2003 before completing it.

Tony Chester


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