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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Benjamin Stein

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To purchase Replay

Title: Replay
Author: Benjamin Stein
Genre: Novel
Written: 2012
Length: 181 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Replay - Deutschland
  • Replay has not yet been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B : decent wired-world dystopia

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . 17/3/2012 Christian Metz
Die Welt . 25/2/2012 Jakob Hessing

  From the Reviews:
  • "Die Welt ist zum humanen Internet geworden, und das hat erschreckend inhumane Folgen. Nicht nur dem Erzähler gehen seine Kommunikationskanäle durch Mark und Bein, sondern auch dem Leser. Der Roman beginnt und endet mit panischer Angst." - Jakob Hessing, Die Welt

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Replay is narrated by Ed Rosen, a graduate of Harvard's Center for Biomedical Informatics and software expert specializing in connecting organic nerve systems and non-organic systems. He goes to work at a Silicon Valley start-up run by Chilean scientist Juan Matana which Matana likes to think of as a 'think tank' rather than corporation -- but which soon mutates into the biggest of businesses.
       Ed has a lazy eye, which was operated on several times in his childhood but essentially never functioned. One of the projects Matana's company is working on are implantable sensors that can gather data and transmit it to the human brain; Matana suggests Ed become a test subject for one of these, an eye implant. This isn't just a simple eye-substitute, but rather a device through which everything that is perceived can also be viewed and shared by outsiders, stored -- and replayed. And it becomes more than that: it is the first iteration of what becomes the UniCom, a sort of internalized world wide web that soon connects nearly everyone and everything.
       Not everyone gets one implanted, but it's quickly almost impossible to function in society without being wired in in this way. (Throughout the novel Ed rails against Julian Assange, one of the voices protesting against the UniCom-system's dangerous near-ubiquity and its consequences, including its massive invasion of privacy.)
       The consortium that is founded to handle this product is named the United Communications Corporation, and quickly becomes the world's largest and most powerful. Ed is fully on board, thrilled by the lifestyle his UniCom (and the wealth he has amassed as part of this enterprise) allow him. But, of course, he's rather blind to the possible downsides of such Big Brother-like external control -- only to learn the lesson the harder way.
       The UniCom is a radical remaking of a person -- ostensibly offering incredible freedom, but also putting limitations outside of the person's control (as well as exposing essentially everything about oneself). Allowing himself to be the guinea pig for this project is not the first time Ed completely transformed himself: when he first interviews with Matana for a job Matana tells him he has to come back with an entirely new look, and Ed gamely transforms himself. In order to be the test subject for the implant they also insist that he get into better physical shape, and so he undergoes a physical transformation as part of the process, eating right and exercising intensively in order to be up for the possible rigors of the undertaking. So Ed repeatedly proves himself very malleable -- repeatedly willing, in fact, to sacrifice parts of what others would consider parts of their identity (as does the woman he becomes involved with). And, of course, hooking into what becomes the UniCom network is the ultimate sacrifice of identity, as it leads to one becoming part of an almost Borg-like collective.
       The self-absorbed narrator occasionally voices some concern -- fantasy-world though this is, his idyll is occasionally surprisingly disturbed -- but on the whole doesn't worry too much. Occasional hints of a darker side -- the unknown origin of the money behind Matana's research, Matana's story of a lunch with Pinochet in, of all years, 1984 -- but Ed chooses to remain rather blind to them (despite, as a boy, being fascinated by things such as numerology, and always looking for a deeper meaning in signs and symbols ...).
       It's fairly cleverly done, though the very personal vantage point leaves the true social and political consequences of the UniCom largely only hinted at and suggested, and not more closely explored. A slim fantasy of our wired-up world taken just to the next level, Replay is a decent dystopian work that builds rather slowly (it takes quite a while before the UniCom even comes into proper play) but at least ultimately packs a solid punch.

- M.A.Orthofer, 29 August 2012

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Replay: Reviews: Benjamin Stein: Other books by Benjamin Stein under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of German literature

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About the Author:

       German author Benjamin Stein was born in 1970.

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© 2012 the complete review

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