Saturday, March 25, 2006

Time Travel

Speaking of resetting time, I want to recommend the book Replay, by Ken Grimwood.

A forty-something man with an unhappy marriage and a job he despises feels a sudden pain in his chest, which he assumes is a heart attack. He collapses. When he wakes up, he's not in a hospital bed—he’s lying on his back in a college dorm room. A vaguely familiar-looking college dorm room. He looks in a mirror and he sees himself—at age 18.

This is a book full of intriguing questions. What if you could relive your life? Would you have the same friends, choose the same career, marry the same person? What if you knew everything that was going to happen for the next twenty years? Yet you can barely remember your college friends’ names, or what courses you’re supposed to be taking, or what happened "yesterday." What do you do? What is it like to interact with parents and teachers when you’re actually older than they are? Could you change history? Could you, say, stop the Kennedy assassination? What would happen if you tried?

Every few years I reread this book and enjoy it every time. It’s amusing when the main character can’t find anything but "oldies" on the radio. In fact, he can’t even find the FM dial.

The culture shock of going suddenly from the 1980s back to the early 1960s is part of what makes the book so interesting. I wish the author, or anyone else, would write a sequel set two decades later. It would be fascinating to watch a character who has seen the end of the Cold War, the explosion of the Internet and the home computer market, the Challenger and Columbia disasters, September 11, etc., suddenly thrust back into 1979.

Replay, by Ken Grimwood


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