Jeff has a mediocre job as a journalist and a marriage that is rough at best. He also dies at 47 of a heart attack in his office … and wakes up an 18 year old in college. He is scared, downright bewildered, and yet quickly able to confirm that there is not a bad dream he had. The man attempts to live again, and avoid his mistakes. As is the way of things, he makes new ones instead, and quickly learns that he cannot be sure of the results of his actions.
Another person whom Jeff discovers going through this process is Pamela, an artist who lost her children in the process of repeating her life, and they attempt to compare the strange and repeated lifetimes that they have been through. They try to find each other as history repeats, and those attempts result in some combination of hurt, pleasure, and apocalyptic mistakes. They also quickly come to realize that each time around the loops get shorter, although they do not quite fully understand why. Instead it is merely a new form of mortality. An encroaching question of when.
There are a scant few moments in the final pages, up to and including the short epilogue, which attempted to put together a clear picture for the reader, a proof that events were not merely in Jeff’s head. It is a little piece designed to differentiate the book from any that take the “just a dream” excuse, but in the process helps to drive home the metaphorical points of the tale.
Much of the book is a meditation on life, and on how one cannot take it for granted. That said, a number of different decisions work for it. The repeats deviate from one another in small ways as well as large, with the roads not taken proving both positive and negative. Each lifetime is an entertaining read alone, yet the combination of them together paints a fascinating picture of the difficulty in trying to fulfill oneself.
The illustrations chosen by Suntup are gorgeous; however, none of them are particularly reflective of literal events in the novel. Alessandro Sicioldr Bianchi has instead produced a series of strange and disturbing images that more reflect emotional and metaphorical situations relating to the story. They might not satisfy all comers, but the different editions’ covers and design prove gorgeous in every case. If one goes in expecting literalistic art they will be disappointed, otherwise they will see something startling and effective.
This new Suntup edition of Replay is wonderful, reproducing a classic novel and doing so in style. The new introduction by Tim Powers acknowledges the influence the story has had, and providing as good a reflection upon it as one is likely to get given that Ken Grimwood is no longer with us. If one collects high-end editions of books this is easy to recommend, and Replay is an easy book to recommend regardless.