Book Reviews: Replay by Ken Grimwood



Replay by Ken Grimwood

If you ask me what the greatest time travel story of all time is I would say Army of Darkness, because in my opinion, that is how you tell a time travel story. But that was a movie. If you ask me the second greatest time travel movie, I would say Groundhog Day.

Boomsticks and Bill Murray aside, if you specifically asked me what the greatest time travel book I’ve ever read is, I would say Replay by Ken Grimwood. The story is about a 43 year old named Jeff Winston who goes back in time 25 years to replay his life over and over. Pretty awesome concept, right? Well, not if you do it over and over and keep watching everything you love and want to disappear. This becomes torture of the Quantum Leap spectrum.

About 90% of the book was a great read. The ending was a bit contrived and ambiguous but how else was he expected to stick the landing? Does he kill them all? Does he let them all live? Or does he do something in middle. What is a writer to do?

My favorite part of the book was the first iteration where  Jeff lets go and has fun in old Las Vegas.  It was almost like answering the big what if of his life. He got answers, but it didn’t fill his soul. This is what I like about the book. It wasn’t a clear answer of the best life is the life you live now. It is as random as life is.

Book rating: 9/10


Book Reviews: Dune by Frank Herbert


This is my single favorite novel of all time. It involves sandworms, drug induced psychic pre-mature babies, marrying the wife of those you kill, the hoarding of water, intergalactic rivalry of Great Houses, an ancient genetics project, and spice. Frank Herbert wrote it over a span of six years (based on research of the Oregon Dunes), and even after publishing a short story version of it, couldn’t find a publisher. According to wikipedia, 20 publishers rejected it. Only Chilton Books, an auto repair manual publisher agreed to print it.

Years later, it remains as one of the greatest Sci-Fi story of all time. It is hard to pinpoint why it became so popular. Experts believed it was too long, too confusing, had too much ecology, too much religion, and too much damn head hopping (a no-no in the literary world). I mean, how dare he call his hero some weird name like Muad’Dib.

For me, the journey of Paul Atreides and his fish-out-of-water search for a new beginning isn’t new. It was the rich detail and decisive story arc and deep characters and history that sets it apart.There have been many “chosen ones” in fiction. This story has the world building, politics, religion, ecology, and economics so well thought out, and all for a tight ending that it stands the test of time. I have read Dune five times. I have read Dune Messiah once. There is a reason for this, but I’ll leave it for another blog post to what went wrong with the books that followed (Some of the other books by Kevin J. Anderson and Brian Herbert are better thought out).

My favorite scene in the story is the end, when Paul wins, controlling the spice, winning the hand of the daughter of the Emperor while getting to keep his Fremen wives.

For Dune fans disappointed by the screen adapapations, check out Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary, and imagine what could have been. Although it would have changed my favorite scene in the movie, I think overall it would have been a stronger film than the David Lynch version. Frank Herbert might have even liked it.

Book Rating: 10/10


Book Reviews: Stranger in a Strange Land


Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

This my favorite story opening of all time. Do you grok this? I mean, do you really grok this? Valentine Michael Smith is the first Martian to return to Earth and discovers a civilization and culture he does not understand, and vice versa. The first ten pages are really strong in the Heilein tradition before going off the rails the second half. To me, the dark ending and overall message doesn’t detract on wonderful storytelling and powerful ideas he was trying to convey.

The story itself is almost a story of what if your religion’s prophet returned. Would you recognize him? Would he be warmly accepted and embraced, or would the religious powers that be wage a campaign against him (as far as I know, most major religions somehow only expect it to be a man for some reason).

I mean, cult-like figures always meet a tragic end, right?

On a side note, if you are ever out on a blind date, and think you are being clever by asking your date if she groks you, believe me, this is a poor move. This can only be a punchline at the nerdiest of nerdy events, say ComiCon or WorldCon, and your odds then are maybe only 20% at most. Bonus points if you drop the line in a swimming pool, if so, please email  or tweet me and tell me your story.

Book Rating: First Half 10/10, Second Half 5/10