Monday, 5 June 2017

Review: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Title: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Author: Claire North
Publisher:  Orbit
Pages: 448
Genres: Science Fiction

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.
I was really psyched for this book, the premise just sounded fascinating to me BUT it wasn't exactly what I was expecting. To start with, it is really slow paced. The main conflict of the novel doesn't begin until almost a third/half way through. It kind of turned into a hunt for a mad scientist which I wasn't a fan of.

Harry August is a kalachakra, he lives his entire life over and over again, seemingly an infinite number of times. I understood it to be that because time is not linear, Harry is (I think) stuck in a repeating time loop of birth and death. There are many other people like him throughout the entirety of time also stuck in their own little time loops. It is a bit mind-boggling to me to be honest. Some kalachakra try and mess with the future by sharing information that bring world events decades forward or back but that is expressly forbidden by the kalachakra community. If the way I have described this book sounds confusing, that is because it is. In addition, Harry's narrative is non-linear and he goes off in tangents about his experiences in all of his fifteen lives in no order whatsoever. It was a little hard to follow at points.

I just wasn't that into Harry as a character, I just didn't care what happened to him. This novel is really interesting and accomplished, no doubt, but it wasn't my cup of tea. Most of the book is set in the twentieth century which is fine, but its not really my favourite century in terms of world events to read about. I can see why other people have loved this but I just wasn't that into it. Its not the book, it's me.

Nevertheless, I can't think of anything worse then reliving my life over and over again. I would go crazy. Imagine how tedious reliving the nineties and noughties infinitely would be. I shudder to think. The concept of kalachakra was really interesting but the plot ultimately feel flat. I can't say I would rush to recommend this to anyone other than sci-fi fans.


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