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Rewrite: Loops in the Timescape

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In this thematic sequel to Gregory Benford’s award-winning bestseller Timescape, a history professor finds that he is able travel back to 1968, the year he was sixteen—here, he finds a slew of mentors with the same ability, including Robert Heinlein, Albert Einstein, and Philip K. Dick and becomes a successful Hollywood screenwriter until some wicked time travelers try to In this thematic sequel to Gregory Benford’s award-winning bestseller Timescape, a history professor finds that he is able travel back to 1968, the year he was sixteen—here, he finds a slew of mentors with the same ability, including Robert Heinlein, Albert Einstein, and Philip K. Dick and becomes a successful Hollywood screenwriter until some wicked time travelers try to subvert him. It’s 2002, and Charlie, in his late forties, is a bit of a sad-sack professor of history going through an unpleasant divorce. While flipping the cassette of an audiobook he gets into a car accident with a truck, and wakes up, fully aware as his adult mind, in his sixteen-year-old body in 1968. Charlie does the thing we all imagine: he takes what he remembers of the future and uses it for himself in his present, the past. He becomes a screenwriter, anticipating the careers of Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg, and then, in a 1980s life of excess, he dies, and wakes up again in his bedroom at sixteen in 1968. Charlie realizes things he didn’t see the first time: that there are others like him, like Albert Einstein, Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein. In fact, there is a society of folks who loop through time to change the world for their agenda. Now, Charlie knows he has to do something other than be self-indulgent and he tries to change one of the events of 1968 in this clever thriller.


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In this thematic sequel to Gregory Benford’s award-winning bestseller Timescape, a history professor finds that he is able travel back to 1968, the year he was sixteen—here, he finds a slew of mentors with the same ability, including Robert Heinlein, Albert Einstein, and Philip K. Dick and becomes a successful Hollywood screenwriter until some wicked time travelers try to In this thematic sequel to Gregory Benford’s award-winning bestseller Timescape, a history professor finds that he is able travel back to 1968, the year he was sixteen—here, he finds a slew of mentors with the same ability, including Robert Heinlein, Albert Einstein, and Philip K. Dick and becomes a successful Hollywood screenwriter until some wicked time travelers try to subvert him. It’s 2002, and Charlie, in his late forties, is a bit of a sad-sack professor of history going through an unpleasant divorce. While flipping the cassette of an audiobook he gets into a car accident with a truck, and wakes up, fully aware as his adult mind, in his sixteen-year-old body in 1968. Charlie does the thing we all imagine: he takes what he remembers of the future and uses it for himself in his present, the past. He becomes a screenwriter, anticipating the careers of Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg, and then, in a 1980s life of excess, he dies, and wakes up again in his bedroom at sixteen in 1968. Charlie realizes things he didn’t see the first time: that there are others like him, like Albert Einstein, Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein. In fact, there is a society of folks who loop through time to change the world for their agenda. Now, Charlie knows he has to do something other than be self-indulgent and he tries to change one of the events of 1968 in this clever thriller.

30 review for Rewrite: Loops in the Timescape

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    Disaffected, middle-aged college professor Charlie Moment suffers what should be a fatal car accident in the year 2000, but instead wakes up as his 16-year-old self in 1968, with all his previous memories intact. So he does what anyone would do with a second chance at his adult life: he steals ideas for yet-to-be-made movies and becomes a rich Hollywood mogul. Along the way he meets other (famous) people who have had the same experience—including Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, Albert Einste Disaffected, middle-aged college professor Charlie Moment suffers what should be a fatal car accident in the year 2000, but instead wakes up as his 16-year-old self in 1968, with all his previous memories intact. So he does what anyone would do with a second chance at his adult life: he steals ideas for yet-to-be-made movies and becomes a rich Hollywood mogul. Along the way he meets other (famous) people who have had the same experience—including Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, Albert Einstein, Casanova—and becomes enmeshed in a conflict between competing factions who want to shape history to their liking. Rewrite gives hard SF stalwart Gregory Benford the opportunity to revisit the premise of his most famous novel, Timescape, where scientists use faster-than-light tachyons to send messages about an impending disaster to the past, while trying to tip-toe around the Grandfather Paradox. At one point, Charlie meets with James Benford, the author’s real-life twin brother (who is the author of Timescape in this rewrite of history), seeking an explanation of how his own mind could transfer to his past self. At one point Charlie suggests that he would prefer to adapt Timescape without all the complicated scientific explanations, to which the physicist replies “Then what would be left?” The irony of this is, that in acknowledging its debt to similar “if I knew then what I know now” time travel stories like Peggy Sue Got Married and Ken Grimwood’s Replay, Rewrite posits that these plots work just fine when they hand wave past the science and focus on character and action. On the downside, while the action and science in Rewrite work, the character doesn’t. Charlie’s cynicism in his approach to reinventing his life—and the world—is not unexpected for a middle-aged divorcee, but the novel doesn’t bother offering any critical distance from it. Charlie steals ideas from actual creative minds and produces successful facsimiles without consequence as if the idea divested from its author is interchangeable with its source. This callousness infects every aspect of his life. With a satirical approach, Benford may have been able to get away with having such an unlikeable character as his hero. That's not how it plays out. While Charlie learns and grows by the end and takes steps to correct his mistakes, I had little sympathy for him by then and no desire to absolve him of them.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Tom Shippey at the WSJ liked lit: https://www.wsj.com/articles/science-... (paywalled) ..." he wakes up, in his parents’ home, on his 16th birthday—but he remembers the life he’s lost. Girls hold no fear for him now, nor teachers. He attracts attention by the maturity of his writing, he makes contacts, he’s off to Hollywood. There, not only is he cool, he has the great advantage of knowing what’s going to be cool next. He knows about the hit movies no one predicted—“2001,” “The Godfather,” “Jaws”—a Tom Shippey at the WSJ liked lit: https://www.wsj.com/articles/science-... (paywalled) ..." he wakes up, in his parents’ home, on his 16th birthday—but he remembers the life he’s lost. Girls hold no fear for him now, nor teachers. He attracts attention by the maturity of his writing, he makes contacts, he’s off to Hollywood. There, not only is he cool, he has the great advantage of knowing what’s going to be cool next. He knows about the hit movies no one predicted—“2001,” “The Godfather,” “Jaws”—and the ideas no one’s had yet, like “Back to the Future.” Like all the best sci-fi authors, Mr. Benford really means it. The quantum world, he insists, is the real world. In the logic of quantum causal loops there is no disqualifying “grandfather paradox.” If you go back in time and kill your grandfather, you live on in that universe, and a grandchild disappears in the original universe. Now, can quantum entanglement allow minds to skate between the layers of space-time? Well, maybe. " I note that it gets mixed reviews here, and that Mr. Shippey's taste & mine often don't agree. Still, when the library gets it, I'll give it a spin.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

    Infinity may manifest in manifold guises, one of them being "the sheer dizzying whirl of the timescape" explored by Gregory Benford in his latest novel, Rewrite, a thematic rather than a direct sequel to his titular award-winning book from 1980. In the year 2000, an unhappily middle-aged Charlie Moment--the irony of whose name immediately declares this book's playfulness and metanarrative friskiness--dies in a car accident, only to wake up back in 1968, inside his own sixteen-year-old body. Poss Infinity may manifest in manifold guises, one of them being "the sheer dizzying whirl of the timescape" explored by Gregory Benford in his latest novel, Rewrite, a thematic rather than a direct sequel to his titular award-winning book from 1980. In the year 2000, an unhappily middle-aged Charlie Moment--the irony of whose name immediately declares this book's playfulness and metanarrative friskiness--dies in a car accident, only to wake up back in 1968, inside his own sixteen-year-old body. Possessing the knowledge of his "past" three decades, Charlie now has the chance to recompose his autobiography. Will his actions prove Oscar Wilde's famous dictum that "youth is wasted on the young," or will Charlie (who sardonically riffs on Wilde, musing, "Maybe education is wasted on the young") instead commit a new series of follies that will leave him stranded in a parallel future no better than that from whence he arose? Six of one tachyon, and half a dozen of the other, as it turns out--at least on Charlie's first, that is to say, second, go-around. Given the literally transcendent nature of his experience, one would be sympathetic if Charlie, following in the temporal footsteps of John Donne's line "we say there shall be a sudden death, and a sudden resurrection; in raptu, in transitu, in ictu oculi," were tempted towards the theological. But Charlie's religious inclinations are nil, and though he dabbles in metaphysics, mostly Hindu doctrines of reincarnation, he remains unconvinced. During a trip through LAX, Charlie encounters "a band of saffron-robed, shaved-head types with their 'Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare' on the sidewalk coming out of baggage claim." His reaction? "Charlie smiles; he knows more about reincarnation than they ever will." Indeed, other characters in the novel display a similar lack of interest in the mystical. Much later on, in fact, Einstein himself says, "I have problems with this word, 'transcendence'--it lies only a few doors down the street from 'incoherence,' and it's easy to get the wrong address." Very well, then. Another possibility would be for Charlie to launch upon a scientific investigation of his bizarre circumstances. This he sort of does, going to the library and reading up on Hugh Everett's many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. But then Charlie stalls on this project, and follows a different, more immediately satisfying trajectory--one involving a lot of sex and a burgeoning role as a Hollywood screenwriter and producer who is able to cannily craft "hits" using his prior timeline's filmic knowledge. An expensive lifestyle, the consumption of insalubrious substances, and a general sense of despairing ennui follow. If that doesn't sound entirely original, it's because it ain't. Ken Grimwood's award-winning novel Replay (1986) exploited the same premise to similar debauched, and ultimately moving, effect. Ah, but Benford is a step ahead of us. Within the novel, Charlie discovers this subgenre of time-loop literature, which includes Grimwood's famous tale, along with Jack Finney's Time and Again (1970), and even, most curiously, Timescape, not by Gregory but by James Benford (in our timestream, Jim is Greg's identical twin). Following this trail, Charlie makes contact with a society of others who, like him, are "reincarnates." This cadre includes Casanova, Einstein, Robert A. Heinlein and possibly Philip K. Dick. Charlie's journey through his second life starts with great vigor and sensitivity. In fact, early scenes in which Charlie regards his middle-aged parents, remembering their declines and deaths, are quite poignant. But things soon become desultory. Part of the problem is Charlie himself. Invariably quick-witted, and almost as often quick-quipped, nothing seems to make much of a dent on him. His relationships with women, in particular, are characterized by insidious utilitarianism and an abiding lack of self-awareness. Sure, we can understand that adolescent hormones in overdrive would lead to numerous trysts ("his body strumming with pleasure," "his body hummed with joy," etc.) but thoughts like, "He knows that women think that way," or "Why was his first life filled with controlling women?," and "knowing the vagaries of women only too well," suggest thick blinders, or worse, willful contempt. The ambiance of Hollywood sleaziness, well evoked by Benford, doesn't help matters, and there's something particularly grating about how the majority of women characters in the novel immediately want to have sex with Charlie. "Distraction beats abstraction, every time," apparently one of Charlie's guiding principles, points at the problem. Fortunately, roughly halfway through the book events speed up as Charlie becomes embroiled in a complex and often fascinating rivalry between various reincarnate factions, who wish to mold history in accordance with their own wishes. While the ultimate villain is somewhat clichéd, Charlie's exchanges with Einstein, Heinlein and others make for diverting, philosophically droll reading. The last-act thrillerish hijinks offer pulpy fun, but I was more intrigued by the gradually unveiled physics model that might account for consciousness relooping. These ideas involve a "memory space" conservation addition to Everett's notions--one which neatly truncates Everett's "bloated ontology"--and an innovative use of q-bit entanglement. I'm less convinced by the proposed answer to the question, "What's special about minds?," but arguing against that answer itself provides a measure of fun. Besides the aforementioned characters based on real-life people, there are also walk-on parts for the likes of Steven Spielberg, Roger Ebert and other cameos, as well as references to, for instance, "a buddy named Rotsler." The tendency to overstuff the narrative with these allusions is nicely counterbalanced by Benford's robust, occasionally trenchant, style, and his well-honed sense of pacing. A landlord's attempt to impress Charlie with a line about Raymond Chandler results in this response: "Charlie knows that Chandler was an oil executive in the 1920s who read Black Mask magazine and never lived in a dump like this." Clearly, Benford knows this too, and has internalized certain cues from the old master. At the start of the three Time Odyssey novels written by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, Clarke coined the term "orthoquel," a kind of perpendicular re-engagement with the ideas and themes of the original work under consideration. Following suit, we might describe Rewrite as a tangenquel (indeed, the first section is titled "Tangent to the Sequel of Life") to Timescape. To the storytelling precursors of which Rewrite is itself aware we may adjoin others, such as Philip José Farmer's Riverworld series, particularly its final entry, The Gods of Riverworld (1983), which like this novel includes reincarnating characters real and imagined in a somewhat madcap plot involving far-reaching plans, the film The Butterfly Effect (2004), and Stephen King's 11/22/63 (2011). Paul Simon's 2011 song "Rewrite," with its haunting refrain ("I said / Help me, help me / Help me, help me / Ohh / Thank you / I'd no idea / That you were there") also comes to mind. The concept of a rewrite is ultimately a hopeful proposition, and despite Rewrite's more prosaic wish-fulfillment elements, it's heartening to see Benford infuse it with such gusto. Speaking of literary precursors, we may at last have a science fiction novel equal parts grave and gravy--or perhaps in this case, grave and groovy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mitchell

    Huh. Maybe at some point authors should stop writing books. Maybe not. I remember liking Timescape, not loving it, but thinking it a worthwhile award-winner. I really liked Replay. Heck I even read Into the Deep which is basically the book version of the movie that Replay's main character makes with Spielberg on his second? third reincarnation? So having Benford rewrite Replay was jarring. And to have a character spend their entire second life making movies but not funding it with any previous k Huh. Maybe at some point authors should stop writing books. Maybe not. I remember liking Timescape, not loving it, but thinking it a worthwhile award-winner. I really liked Replay. Heck I even read Into the Deep which is basically the book version of the movie that Replay's main character makes with Spielberg on his second? third reincarnation? So having Benford rewrite Replay was jarring. And to have a character spend their entire second life making movies but not funding it with any previous knowledge was also just weird. And then the book takes a right-turn. And we get Robert Heinlein and Albert Einstein and a version of Benford himself as characters. And then the book gets weird. Okay we do see Philip K. Dick and Spielberg and Lucas but that's barely surprising. Is this good? Not really. But is it interesting in and oddly different take on at least half of the book? Well maybe. Though it also has enough of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August that even that part isn't original. So no. Read Replay. Read Timescape. Heck even read the First Fifteen Lives of Harry August. Read classic Heinlein. Give this book a pass. Or not. Just being unoriginal didn't make it bad. I just expected better. From an ARC - Advance Reader Copy.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Xray Vizhen

    I love a good time travel story. This is not one of them. The first half of "Rewrite" is OK with some original ideas on the typical time travel trope. The second half, not so much as it degenerates into a shoot-'em-up action adventure. Early on there are some interesting discussions on the physical possibilities of time travel (backwards only), general relativity and multiverses but at the same time there are also some simplistic contrivances in the plot that completely avoid the various paradox I love a good time travel story. This is not one of them. The first half of "Rewrite" is OK with some original ideas on the typical time travel trope. The second half, not so much as it degenerates into a shoot-'em-up action adventure. Early on there are some interesting discussions on the physical possibilities of time travel (backwards only), general relativity and multiverses but at the same time there are also some simplistic contrivances in the plot that completely avoid the various paradoxes that would normally develop. Frankly, I got bored with the story and had the sense the author was not quite sure how to wrap things up. He might have gotten bored as well.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lee Schlesinger

    The first half sets up an interesting premise and some drama, which collapses in a muddle in the middle.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marie Lutz

    A mishmash of everything: quantum mechanics, reincarnation, movie making, trying to change history, people trying to kill people who are trying to change history, and so on. Family members and friends from life one appear in life two, then their stories just seem to drop out of sight (or maybe I missed something since I started to skim). Lots of famous and not so famous names are part of the plot including Einstein, Spielberg, Heinlein and Philip K. Dick. The author even throws himself and his t A mishmash of everything: quantum mechanics, reincarnation, movie making, trying to change history, people trying to kill people who are trying to change history, and so on. Family members and friends from life one appear in life two, then their stories just seem to drop out of sight (or maybe I missed something since I started to skim). Lots of famous and not so famous names are part of the plot including Einstein, Spielberg, Heinlein and Philip K. Dick. The author even throws himself and his twin brother into the plot. To me the science, if you can call it that, was incomprehensible. I really think there was a germ of a good story here, but it didn’t grow into anything interesting and the book got worse as it plodded along.

  8. 4 out of 5

    John

    Benford is a much better writer now than he was when I last tried to read him in the 1980s. I really enjoyed the setup in this book, of a character who, upon death in his late 40s-early 50s discovers that he wakes up in his teenage body on the morning of his sixteenth birthday, back in January 1968. Unfortunately, the book goes downhill in Act 2, as our hero discovers there are other like him. The 'sci-fi' like explanations of why this might happen were awkward. The need to try to influence poli Benford is a much better writer now than he was when I last tried to read him in the 1980s. I really enjoyed the setup in this book, of a character who, upon death in his late 40s-early 50s discovers that he wakes up in his teenage body on the morning of his sixteenth birthday, back in January 1968. Unfortunately, the book goes downhill in Act 2, as our hero discovers there are other like him. The 'sci-fi' like explanations of why this might happen were awkward. The need to try to influence politics and the like in various quantum realities in the worlds that these 're-incarnates' inhabit was something I didn't really find all that interesting. The book wasn't really enjoyable enough as a story to spend more time writing about it. Two stars, because I finished it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    Sad sack middle-aged history prof dies and wakes up on his 16th birthday. If you could rewrite your life, how would you live it differently? This bogs down in the middle as Charlie and a reincarnated Einstein talk quantum physics and multiple time lines (or loops), then quickly finishes off in a burst of fast action. Since the author is a physics prof, at least the discussion of quantum mechanics was based on actual knowledge of the material.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Giulio Prisco

    This is the science fiction novel that I wanted to read. Thanks Gregory Benford for writing it for me. Imaginative, bold, awesome. More: https://turingchurch.net/rewrite-by-g...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Wood Hughes

    Excellent read A novel time travel novel. While not the best time travel story I’ve ever read, it’s a page turner that keep me interested the entire way through.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michael J. Ahola

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mark Sullivan

  14. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  15. 4 out of 5

    Robert R Holmes

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Cohen

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cathleen

  18. 5 out of 5

    Robert McNeese

  19. 4 out of 5

    John

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jhseltzer

  21. 5 out of 5

    Greg

  22. 5 out of 5

    Troy

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mitch

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bennett Rodick

  26. 5 out of 5

    Deniz Yuret

  27. 4 out of 5

    Steven Davis

  28. 4 out of 5

    John Bellman

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jean

  30. 5 out of 5

    Stasia

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