Thursday, April 3, 2014

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry AugustThe First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Harry August is a kalachakra, a man who is reborn at the same point in time over and over with his memories intact. When a little girl warns Harry on his eleventh death bed that the end of the world is coming sooner with each cycle, Harry goes on the offensive. Can he stop the end of the world, even with the help of the Cronus Club?

I got this from Netgalley.

I love a bit of timey-wimey and this book has it in spades. Remember the movie Groundhog Day where Bill Murray experiences the same day over and over? Now, imagine the day is a lifetime and there are other people experiencing it as well. That's pretty much the plot.

I'm going to get my gripe out of the way first. The book moves at a glacial pace, mostly due to the constant digressions. The publisher's blurb makes it sound like the world is in jeopardy immediately. Not so. I was 30% of the way through the book by the time the little girl showed up.

That being said, this is a very compelling book. It deals with classic time travel themes like not messing with the past and weighty topics like how our experiences make us who we are. Harry's not the most interesting character I've ever read about but he lives some interesting lives.

Once the little girl finally shows up to warn Harry during his eleventh life, everything is kicked up a notch and Harry's lives finally have a greater purpose. Harry being reborn as himself in the same point in history every time reminds me of reading the same Choose Your Own Adventure book over and over without being able to keep your thumb at the previous choice so you can go back. "Maybe if I run away at age six, everything will turn out okay..."

Kalachakras at the beginning of their life cycles handing off info to kalachakras at the end of theirs was a novel way of passing info back in time, even though the information could taint the timeline.

At the end of the day, I'm not really sure how to go about rating this. I loved the concepts and the writing was very good but Harry wasn't a very compelling lead. The endless digressions were a little annoying. I guess I'll give it the traditional safety rating of three stars.

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  1. I think I was so fascinated by the science and the philosophy of temporal tampering that the pacing wasn't an issue for me. Harry was a little thin, granted, but I thought he served as a fitting focal point for the story.

    A change in perspective, through, allowing us deeper into the inner workings of the Chronos Club, would have made it a much stronger read. I felt like we were a bit handcuffed by what Harry felt worth sharing.

  2. I would have liked to read more about the Cronus Club too. Multiple viewpoint characters might have made things confusing, though.