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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
by Claire North
Science Fiction/ Time Travel
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:

The extraordinary journey of one unforgettable character - a story of friendship and betrayal, loyalty and redemption, love and loneliness and the inevitable march of time.

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.


This was an exceptional book.  The premise is complex and intriguing - I loved how the author didn't go through Harry August's lives completely in sequential order, but moved back and forth to better detail Harry's character development.  There are things that Harry learned in his past lives that have repercussions into his later ones, and seeing how that all fit together was so thrilling.  It gradually opens the reader's mind up to all the possibilities of having this kind of regenerative existence, and it keeps the pace of the plot moving quickly.  Just as it was tedious for Harry to relive his childhood over and over (with the mind of an adult) it would have been tedious to go through each of Harry's lives as he lived them.  Instead we get Harry's reminisces over his past lives as we need it.  Crafting this story alone was a great feat of storytelling.

I'm a little unsure over how I feel about the character Harry August.  I usually love to really root for the main protagonist of any book, but I sometimes felt Harry was an anti-hero, although he did have many difficult decisions to make which had some terrible consequences.  But the way in which Harry perseveres with his goal was admirable, and I was definitely rooting for him to fulfill it, especially when it came to the nail-bitingly suspenseful last few chapters.  And the plot alone is well worth any small issues I had with what Harry did.  Harry is a complex character though, and I understand that he should be more than just good or bad.  His understanding and his motivations are beyond the views of the "linears" (as they term people who don't re-live their lives) but there is still a lot of humanity in him.

While the prologue foreshadows the events in the end, we only really get to know the danger the world is in in the last half of the book.  The first half mostly details Harry's experiences and how the Cronos Club works.  The Cronos Club by the way is such an ingenious idea (it's their way of passing messages on to the past and the future) and overall I was really impressed with how well the author worked out the logistics of this world.  It's all so fascinating, but the book really picks up when Harry needs to stop one of his kind from doing something terrible.  The suspense really kicks in, and I think this book is mostly memorable for how well it portrayed this contest between two equals.

The Fifteen Lives of Harry August is a real roller coaster of a read.  It has thought-provoking drama with intelligent, clever storytelling.  It also has a high level of realism, with some darkly humorous quips. This is a book I would highly recommend if you are looking for something imaginative, distinctive and different.

(I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review.)

BTW, after I finished this book, I went to find out more on the author and found out Claire North is the pseudonym of a highly regarded published British author.  But no clue about who that author is!  I hope it is revealed soon, I would like to read more of his/her books! (If I haven't already...)

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  1. Okay, I'm not big on these kinds of novels, but the synopsis really has me curious! Harry seems like a character I need to unravel. I'm glad you loved it, Charlene.

  2. I'm currently reading Life After Life... which is interesting, but I'm not falling in love with it the way a lot of people have seemed to. This one sounds somewhat similar, but probably something I'd enjoy even more!

  3. I'm totally into these kinds of books so I'm really excited about this one. Harry in particular, I'm curious to see why you thought he was anti-hero. And I don't mind that- I feel like sometimes book people are too good. Anyway, sounds like this book is complex and thematic and different so I'll definitely keep an eye out for it! Great review!

    -P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

  4. I was iffy on this one as well for some reason - probably because I'm so used to reading YA and other books that aren't as weighty with realistic issues, but I'm glad I picked this one up - it's a fascinating read!

  5. I just looked up Life After Life on goodreads - I see some mixed reviews among my friends there, and since you aren't in love with it, I might not pick it up. So, with a whole lot of bias, I'll say that I think you will really enjoy this take on a story where a character re-lives their life!

  6. Oh I think you will like Harry then if you are intrigued by anti-heroes! There are some issues with morality in this book, and it is interesting how Harry deals with it. Eventually I think he deals with it in the right way, so I'm pretty happy with him in general. :) I hope you enjoy this if you get a chance to read it!

  7. This sounds like a very cool book! I find that I often I love the idea of books about time travel more than the execution, but it sounds like this one was done very well.

  8. This sounds really interesting!

  9. The execution of this one is very sophisticated - I think the author portrayed the situation very realistically!

  10. It's a great read! I am so glad I gave it a chance!