Replay by Ken Grimwood

Replay by Ken Grimwood (1986).  I discovered this book thanks to a recommendation from someone online and I think this probably one of the best novels I’ve read this year.  The book is about Jeff, a 43 years old man who works in an office and is unhappily married. Suddenly he dies and wakes up as himself 25 five years in the past as a 18 year old college student. He does not understand what has just happened to him and believes he just had gone insane. It takes some time for him to assimilate that actually his mind has gone back in time, keeping his memories of the future but now in the body of his younger self.  With all that information he possesses about future trends, world events  and politics, he makes a series of bets in sports and becomes rich and he is able to live his new life, but now but wealthier than in his past life. He marries a new woman, has a daughter, founded an investment company and then he dies at 43 from heart attack and then and wakes up again as a 18 years teenager one more time. These replays of his life happen several times and each time is slightly different. One day he discovers another replayer. In one of his replays he notices a movie picture that he has never seen in any of his previous replays. This film, called “Star Sea” is actually probably the best movie ever made and it has come about a year before “Jaws” in 1964 and is directed  by Steven Spielberg, produced  by George Lucas and written by Pamela Phillips.  This movie is about extraterrestrial contact between aliens and dolphins on earth and how there is a cosmic connection between spices in the universe. This is the best movie ever and, of course Jeff has heard about Lucas and Spielberg, but Pamela Phillips is a name totally new to him. He is very curious to know who this person is and he travels to Los Angeles and gets to meet with her. As it turns out Pamela is also a replayer and the same thing is happening to her.

They get to know each other, fell in love and remain together for several lives. They suspect that there might be other replayers out there and start posting ads in the newspapers that only a true replayer could understand and they manage to contact another replayer who actually is a serial killer.  Quite disappointed by their bad luck, they decide to go public disclosing their condition to the press in the hope that they could reach the scientific community to help them to understand what is happening to them.

Going public turns out to be a major problem for them because their predictions now have effects on whole societies. They manage to change major historical events and they end up imprisoned by the US government as the department of state believes they pose a risk to the nation’s security.

They replays go over and over again for probably eight times but each replay is shorter than the previous one. They notice their replays are being reduced first by some minutes, then months, then years and finally decades. At the end they reach some sort of singularity in which they die and live almost simultaneously. Finally, after their last death, they woke up again not in 1963 but in the present time.  They decide to live what is left of their last life just by enjoying whatever it comes.

 I like how Max Ritcher creates  emotions with music. Ritcher’s recomposition of Vivaldi’s four seasons is not a ‘cover’ or a new instrumentation. Ritcher used minimalism to extract the most basic essence of each one of Vivaldi’s concerts. In fact, Ritcher uses only a small percentage of the original material and a violin that is  almost 300 years old to create this beautiful and simple  piece of music. How is this related to ‘Replay’? In my imagination I see Ritcher going back in time to the XVIII century to share with Vivaldi the recomposed sound of ‘Spring’.
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