Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (2014) by Claire North

Harry August is a kalachakra, one of a few people born in each generation who relives their own life over and over and over again. Not reincarnation exactly because they are not reborn as something or someone else, but truly reborn as themselves. And yet they retain the knowledge from previous lives. Unless they go through (or are forced through) the Forgetting--a process that wipes the slate clean so they can experience life as an innocent once again. Anyway, Harry is going along with his reliving cycle until his eleventh life when he's on his deathbed and a small girl appears at his side to give him a message from the future*--the world is ending. And it keeps ending faster. And apparently Harry is the only one who can fix it. The remainder of the book is [mostly] about Harry's efforts in his next four lives to find out why it's happening and what he needs to do to stop it.

So...this was not my cup of tea at all. I didn't expect to be hopping back and forth, in and out of Harry's various lives. And he seemed pretty hung up on life number four for no reason that I could really make out. Just when I thought we were finally done with life number four, we'd pop back to it right in the middle of life number eleven or life number fourteen or whatever. That was annoying and distracting. Also, Harry--for all the learning he supposedly does over all the years he's lived through--doesn't really seem to learn anything at all that matters. Like maybe you should stop telling people that you die and get reborn. Either they won't believe you (even when you give them solid evidence of future world events that later actually happen) and think you're crazy and shove you in asylums OR they do believe you and want to use your knowledge for their own ends. And just might torture you to get you to cooperate. And, after all that time, you'd think Harry would develop some kind of a personality. Not so much. The only times he's even remotely likable is in the introductory portion and then at the end when he's trying to save the world.

This was such an interesting concept to me. There have been a lot of books about time-travel and going back in time to change things. And there have been stories about reincarnation. There have even been stories where people have relived portions of their lives (Replay by Ken Grimwood, for one). But this was the first I'd seen where someone relived their entire life. I just wish it had been better. Of course, lots of folks on Goodreads have given it rave reviews, so your mileage may vary.  and 1/2. All for concept and the few bits that I enjoyed.

[*I'm not even going to try to explain how messages get passed back and forth through the years, decades, centuries among the kalachakra.]

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