I remember them all, you do not remember. Jeff Winston was on the phone with his wife when he died. I was only nine or ten when I picked up Replay for the first time. In the decades since, I’ve read it over and over again in the hopes of becoming a better writer. It has taught me how to be direct with my language, how to be honest with the motivations and desires of my characters, and most importantly, it showed me (and continues to show me) that stories can be more than just entertainment; they can make your reader feel something. Prior to reading my first big boy book, I was content to devour anything written by Judy Blume, Louis Sachar, and Bruce Coville. If there was a finer book than My Teacher Fried My Brains, I hadn’t read it. I had always been aware of my parents’ bookshelf, but the titles had always seemed so imposing. Shogun, The Satanic Verses, IT. Okay, IT is not that imposing, but still. These books were dense and full of big words I didn’t understand. Replay, though, seemed instantly accessible. I turned to the first page and there it was. Jeff Winston was on the phone with his wife when he died. It might have been the best and worst of times, and the clocks might have been striking thirteen, but I consider Replay’s opening line to be one of the best in literature. There is so much contained in this one little sentence, and it is as tragic as it is mundane. We join the story just as the main character dies. At ten years old, I had yet to read a book where anyone dies, let alone at the very beginning of the story. Replay is the story of a middle-aged guy who dies and wakes up as his 18 year old self with all of his knowledge still intact. He has to relive his life knowing what will happen, not just to himself, but to the world. He tries to avoid the bad moments and recapture the good, but as he finds out, the future isn’t set. Just by having knowledge of it, of thinking he knows how it will go, he changes his replay in ways he couldn’t have imagined. He lives another life, only to die again of another heart attack. Wash, rinse, and replay. Jeff Winston was on the phone with his wife when he died. Whenever I tell someone about Replay, I usually just parrot the synopsis and hope they find it interesting enough to purchase the book. However, to really tell you why this book is my favorite, we have to go beyond the sex, drugs, love, and loss of Jeff’s various replays. You see, on a superficial level, a man counting cards in Vegas or betting on the Preakness is just as entertaining as Peter trying to mail his little brother. There are a lot of books, and a lot of sci-fi, that are just pure entertainment. Just…
Maybe this is where VR is heading. Are you ready for VR can you survive such mind control. Do you want to control all you see? The new world order is heavy with opportunity.
Honest, well-conceived science fiction. First, I’d like to say that I was worried about Veneer because it’s a self-published title. Perhaps I’m being a bit crass, but I find that most self-published books I’ve attempted to read are poorly written, or have awful (non-existent?) plots, or thin plastic characters. Quite often it’s all of these. Veneer, however, is quite a good book. It could have used a bit of an editor’s red ink but otherwise I found it to be highly entertaining and unpredictable. There were times when I got through a portion of a chapter and thought “Why the heck did that happen? Is the author just filling pages?” but then was surprised to find a real reason, one that relates to the plot or character development. My low expectations were often confounded this way. If I were forced to give an idea of the flavor of this book, I’d say there’s a little of both The Giver and Brave New World, with a tiny splash of The Matrix. The ending was a bit confusing, though that did not diminish my level of post-climax satisfaction (yikes, did I just write that?) If you’re on the fence about this book, give the author a chance. Being self-published is not easy. If you find that you don’t like the book after reading this review, feel free to berate me.