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Thursday, November 12, 2015

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Wow... The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is an epic time-bending tale of science and vengeance, along the lines of The Curious Tale of Benjamin Button or The Time Traveler's Wife... but plus some.

Harry is a kalachakra, which means that when he dies, he is reborn with all of his memories intact.  He doesn't ever travel forward through time; he's always born in 1919 to the same woman.  He's not alone; there are a number of kalachakra throughout the world, and they form a support network for each other.  Harry's first ten lives or so are rather uneventful (I mean, other than the fact that at about age 4 he comes into all of his memories and consciousness from multiple full past lives) as he figures out what his "condition" means for him and how to make the best use of his time.  He seems to work through all the grief stages, you know, like anger, depression, questioning, etc.  In one life he even tries to tell another person what is happening to him... it doesn't go well.

After a couple of lives, Harry hooks up with the Cronus Club, the network of kalachakra.  He is able to partake in debates about such things as "why not kill Hitler?"  (No spoilers; you'll have to read the book to find out why!)  I will admit that the first half of the book moves a little slowly.  There is a lot of groundwork to lay, to explain the kalachakra phenomenon, and we get to know Harry.  Would you like a book with character development?  Imagine how much growth and development you can fit into a few hundred years of a character's life!  I enjoyed this part.  The story unfolds in a steady rate without too much dawdling in any one life.  The format is also intriguing; the book is written as Harry August writing his memoirs, so it's like sitting and having tea (Harry is British) with him while he tells his life (lives') story.

Then, about halfway through the book, the reader finds the conflict.  You know the structure of a good book:  set-up, conflict, resolution.  The conflict here is a kicker!  During one early life, an old and dying Harry is visited at his hospital bedside by a young girl, a fellow kalachakra, who has been sent to warn him that the world is ending.  You see, kalachakra have a method of passing information from generation to generation, back and forth in time this way.  Harry is confused by this message, though:  hasn't the world always been ending?  Over the course of succeeding lives, Harry finds out, though, that the problem is that the world is ending more quickly.  Thus begins an exciting chase through time, as Harry pursues a person who is bent on destroying the world as quickly as possible.  Each death gives Harry a failure... and another chance to try again to catch the culprit.

I also mentioned science in my opening statement.  Throughout all of his lives, Harry is instrumental in scientific discovery and advancement.  He walks a fine line between that discovery, and not advancing science too greatly beyond it's predetermined timeline.  (There could be chaos if someone suddenly "discovered" the personal computer in 1950, for example.)  And this--science--is exactly what could bring about the end of the world sooner than later.  I'll admit:  a lot of the science went over my head, but it's ok.  You totally don't have to understand quantum physics in order to grasp the plot of the book.  Under all the scientific tug-of-war, there's the foundation plot of good vs. evil, and a chase through time.

I definitely recommend The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August!


Tynga is a 32 years old mom of two, from Montreal, working as a lab technician in an hospital specialized in heart disease. In her free time, she enjoys reading all things Paranormal and photography.

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1 Person left their mark:

  1. Sounds interesting - and I loved your review. It's refreshing to come across a really well-written review that I didn't get bored with half-way through; well done :)