Review: Replay, by Ken Grimwood

How would you live you life again? (5 stars)

Originally published in 1986, Replay is a time travel story with a twist. It raises the question: what would you do if you died right now and woke up 25 years ago back in your teenage body? What if this happened several times and you could relive your life again, and again, and again?


The plot begins with Jeff Winston, a 43-year-old radio broadcaster that dies of a heart attack in 1988 during a phone conversation with his wife. He immediately wakes up back in 1963 and how he was at 18, still a law school student, but now with the memory of everything that would happen in the next 25 years.

The first thing that Jeff does is become a millionaire, by betting – correctly – in all the sports events he remembers. The he goes to Las Vegas, gets a trophy wife, becomes a billionaire as he knows the best company stocks to buy. Despites his efforts taking better care of his health and having a whole hospital at his disposal, Jeff dies again in 1988 and wakes up back in 1963, in a phenomenon that would repeat itself several more times.

Jeff balances himself between omnipotence and impotence. He tries to stop JFK’s assassination before it happens, but the president ends up killed by someone else. He tries to find his old wife in his new life, who drives him off in some lives and accepts him in others, evolving a different personality each time. He has a daughter in a life, who he fears will be lost in a limbo when he “reboots”. And Jeff accumulates a knowledge that he has no one to share with. Until he discovers he is not the only one “replaying” his life.

It is very interesting how the character goes through different stages along his replays, enthusiasm, depression, acceptance. Author Ken Grimwood showed great sensibility recreating all these existences, with moments of new happiness and new pain. The point that came across to me is that if we lived our lives again we wouldn’t correct the mistakes of the past, we would only make new ones. Replay is a book that transcends science fiction and makes the reader think about their own story.

Guilherme Solari is a Brazilian writer and journalist from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He has written about movies, literature and videogames for some of Brazil’s biggest news sites. He is the author of THE CASCAVEL CHRONICLES, a love letter to 80's action movies, as well as the cyberpunk CYBERSAMPA series.