Replaying your life

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The science fiction novel Replay by Ken Grimwood, first published in 1988 and recently reprinted, is based on a fascinating premise.  The central character dies in 1988 at age 43 of a heart attack, and wakes up as his younger self at age 18 in 1963.  He gets a chance to live his life over, not once but many times, but in decreasing intervals. In each replay, he starts over at a later point in his life, but he always dies at the same instant in 1988.  The fascination is in the question: What would I do if I had that chance?  Would I retrace my previous life and this time do things right, or would I try something entirely new?

In its execution, the novel does justice to its premise. Grimwood has a good feel for how things were in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and how these decades differed. There are clever plot twists, which I won’t reveal.  In one replay, the central character tries to alter the course of history and inadvertently brings on an intensified version of  War on Terror and Homeland Security state (not called by those names) in the late 1970s and early 1980s, resulting in a cancellation of the 1984 elections.

Grimwood had a lot of insight to foresee that possibility, unless he was a replayer himself (he died in 2003).

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