Book Review: First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Harry August is on his deathbed. Again. No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he has already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now. As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. ‘I nearly missed you, Doctor August,’ she says. ‘I need to send a message.’ This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow.
ashley | Yes! Yes! This book is full of yes. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North is exactly what I was hoping it would be when I first picked it up. It’s an incredible story of a man who in death is reborn exactly as he was during his first birth, but he carries with him the memories of all the lives he has lived.
This is also a story that questions your choices and your beliefs and what kind of person you really are. It’s not hard to see how this kind of – gift, we’ll say – can be used to take advantage of things. There seems to be a natural drive in people to do so, so naturally, with this valuable knowledge of what is happening in the future, some might place some more-than-lucky bets to pad their wallets or bring forth technology far before its appropriate time.
Or some people might use this knowledge to help those of their kind, the kalachakra, that come after them, to help ease the way for a child who is wise beyond his years but not taken very seriously in the linear world. That’s the Cronus Club, one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a book in some time now. A group of people passing messages forward and backwards through time, informing their kin of ways in which they can better their lives and ensure their safety. Until, of course, one greedy and over knowledgeable kalachakra tries to wipe them all out. Harry stumbles onto this master plan and has to basically manipulate timelines to prevent the extinction of his kind, and himself.
Harry is a great character. He comes from a difficult time, but a time that sees so much change and progress in mankind. And instead of just sitting back and watching it all happen, he learns. He explores religion, he explores science and he learns so much about life in the search for answers in his own. He knows what it’s like to have to work hard to survive, he knows what it’s like to be thought crazy and have the person you trust the most not believe your biggest secret, but for the most part, he doesn’t lose himself to this endless cycle, which speaks volume about what kind of person he is, the kind of person you want to follow through life over and over and over again.
The majority of the book is not linear; it jumps between Harry’s various lives and different events that piece together everything that is building. Somewhere in the middle things get a little over complicated and a bit mixed up, there was a moment of information overload and I had some issues pushing through. But North brought things back on track quickly enough and threw me head first into the last third of the book.
Apparently Claire North is a pseudonym, leaving you to wonder exactly who has the imagination behind such a dynamic story. I imagine it’s someone relatively seasoned, someone who has done this time and time again, as this is just so well written and layered for it to be someone without a few books under their belt.