Wednesday, October 9th, 2013
Book #8: “Replay” — Ken Grimwood (1986)
Let’s get this out upfront: “Replay” isn’t a great book. But its concept is so compelling, and its execution so heartfelt, it is easy to overlook its flaws and understand why it has such a huge cult following. The premise is simple: What if you could live your life again, knowing everything you know now?
Replay’s protagonist, a schlub named Jeff, finds himself waking up in 1963 after dying in 1988. He gets to do everything over from the age of 18 and avoid all the mistakes he made the first time. Except — Jeff keeps dying every time he gets to 1988, reliving the same 25 year period of history again and again. Each time, he takes a different tact, tries a different approach to life, all while searching for meaning as to why his life is the way it is.
There is a plot, and a mystery, but the genius of the story — according to NPR commentator Brad Meltzer at least — is “Replay” is about you:
“The moment Ken Grimwood has his authorly hooks in you, you can’t help but look at your own life and think, ‘What would I do differently if I could live my life again?’ And not in the way we all casually play this game. Really — What would I do differently?”
Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013
Short Story #8: “A Sound of Thunder” — Ray Bradbury (1952)
I have two very clear memories of my father introducing me to science fiction. When I was 7 and my brother was 5, he took us to see “2001: A Space Odyssey.” On the big screen. It was the cinematic equivalent of giving a child acid, and I will always be grateful. Before we went into the theater, I remember him crouching down in front of us and saying something like, ‘boys, you’re not going to understand what you’re about to see, but it’s important that you see it.’
The next summer, while we were at the beach during one particularly rainy family vacation, we stumbled across “Star Trek” on TV. It had just gone into syndication, and he was excited that we would get to experience it. The first episode we saw was “The Trouble with Tribbles,” which of course meant we were permanently hooked. For the next couple of years, he and I would watch Star Trek together most afternoons when I got home from elementary school. Again, I am eternally grateful.
I know he also pointed me in the direction of “A Sound of Thunder,” though the details are now fuzzy. I just remember laying on the couch at my grandmother’s house, gobsmacked, as I finished reading Bradbury’s most famous short story. It is not his best, far from it in fact, but its O. Henry ending — and that it helped coin the term “butterfly effect” – ensures you probably know it even if you haven’t read it.
Hunters + Time Travel + Dinosaurs. What could possibly go wrong?
Find out here: http://www.lasalle.edu/~didio/courses/hon462/hon462_assets/sound_of_thunder.htm
Image courtesy of io9 and its “Can you outrun a T-Rex?” (The answer is no.)
Tuesday, February 5th, 2013
Short Story #17: “All You Zombies” — Robert Heinlein (1959)
It is possible Heinlein will end up on this list more than most authors, and I’m not going to apologize for it. It’s not his fault libertarians and gun-nuts and “constitutional scholars” have glommed on to the guy for his (admittedly) libertarian beliefs. Of course, that makes it all the more hilarious when you consider Heinlein spent a good deal of time also writing (approvingly) about group marriages, cannibalism, incest … huh, maybe that’s the real reason Tea Party types like him…
Yes, Heinlein was the undisputed captain of crafting logical, well-reasoned fucked-up shit, and there is no better example than “All You Zombies,” the last short story he would publish. There are no undead in “Zombies,” just lots and lots of time travellers. In fact, Heinlein perfected the closed time-loop concept with this hardscrapple tale of a guy who both his own mother and father. A self-made man indeed —literally.
Want to know what you missed? — The Book Countdown so far