This review was written for American Book Center’s You Review. The advanced reading copy of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August written by Claire North was gracefully provided by ABC.
If you’ve never heard of Claire North, please don’t be embarrassed. If you Google her name you will find out that Claire North is actually a pseudonym for a ‘an acclaimed British author’. Do we have another one of J.K. Rowling’s works in hand? I sure hope not.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is about the kalachakra, a specific type of people living throughout all times who live their own lives over and over again. These kalachakras or ouroborans form a club – The Cronus Club – to support each other through life and help smoothen the transition from life to death back to life again. Our main character, Harry August, is of course a kalachakra and we follow him through his first 15 lives which ends with him hunting a super villain who hides inside the The Cronus Club destined to destroy the world.
All this sounds rather exciting, but it turns out to be quite a dull read. The premise of living your life over and over again is interesting, but done much better by Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life. However Harry August is not in the business of being a novel that exposes human nature and horrors of our history. The book should have been a fast-paced exciting sci-fi story, something you can’t put down because you know the world is going to end and the future is inevitable. The ‘science’ behind the kalachakra should have been mind-boggling, but it’s mostly confusing and – even worse – boring. Nothing in the book made me marvel at the world created by North and the only character that was even remotely interesting was the villain of it all, trying to unravel where the kalachakra came from by way of a quantum mirror. I wish the book would have focused more on the origins of the time-travelers and the possibilities this lends to a story and widened its focus the the actual end of the world described at the very start of the book.
That said, it’s not a bad book. It’s well written and interesting, but it’s definitely not the genre-crossing sci-fi/literary fiction work of genius people make it out to be. It’s a great book for people who want to ease themselves into sci-fi reading or people who are fully emerged in the genre and strapped for reading fodder.
Written by Esmée de Heer
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