In the First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, author Claire North plays with our concept of time. In her vision, time runs over and over on a constant loop. Some people have the ability to retain their consciousness from one life to the next, and are born again and again – always in the same time, in the same place and to the same parents, but with the knowledge of the lives lived before.
Here, being reborn isn’t reincarnation, it’s more like doing endless laps around a track. People like Harry cross paths with the same acquaintances every life, and develop relationships that span more lifetimes than they can remember. Major events and landmarks pass by again and again, and even with their extensive knowledge, there’s nothing they can do to stop or change them.
For Harry and those like him, life is both a constant experiment and a bit of a bore. Childhood is a chore to get through. Death isn’t final and is sometimes, in extreme cases, welcomed. But then news of a disaster starts to filter through from the future. The end of the world is coming, and it’s getting closer with every generation. Someone is disrupting the balance, inventing technology far before its time with devastating consequences. When people start disappearing, murdered in the womb before they can be born and breaking the cycle for good, it becomes obvious that this threat is very real.
On a mission to stop the end of the world, Harry soon begins to suspect that the person behind the threat is someone that he has come to know very well. As he sets out on a mission to stop his nemesis that will span several lifetimes, his allies start to fall away until it’s clear that the fate of the world rests almost entirely on his shoulders.
The wide timespan that’s covered and the fact that characters can die multiple times without actually meeting their final end gives Claire North a huge realm of possibilities to explore. As Harry lives his lives over and over, he travels all parts of the globe, indulges in every excess and pursues any number of careers. It makes for a really interesting, fast paced read. Although the narrative jumped around a bit, it was cleverly written and easy to follow.
Harry is a really strong central character. I loved watching his relationship with the villain of the story evolve over multiple lifetimes and seeing the balance of power between the two shift subtly back and forward. The showdown, when it comes, is suitably epic and explosive. All in all – a really entertaining read!