Review: ‘The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August’ by Claire North

I picked this book up on a whim, while touring some Suffolk libraries with a play last year. My ‘to read’ pile is massive but I thought I’d advance this one to the top, having had a couple of people recommend it to me again over the Christmas period.

There may be some who might question whether this book should even be reviewed on my blog; however, given the number of cross-genre books coming out lately, and considering the book contains time travel and some pretty decent science / tech (all of which seems based in reality – though I’m no quantum physicist!), I think it ticks enough boxes for me to include it. It also has a fair bit of philosophy, especially with regards to ethics, free will and the meaning of life, and that sort of thing will always get my interest.

In short, I started reading it yesterday at 7pm and finished it in one sitting. It is absolutely compelling. There are some beautifully written lines, very strong characterisation, and the basic premise is a real ‘hook’ – I can see why it was selected to be part of the Radio 2 and Richard and Judy Book Clubs, back in 2014. It also won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel and was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

There are some inescapable similarities to ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ by Audrey Niffenegger (2003), but I think that this would always be the case with any contemporary(ish!) time travel novel and in no way reflects poorly on Claire North’s work. I actually think that this book is a little better written – though this opinion is totally subjective, of course.

the first fifteen lives of harry august

Some stories cannot be told in just one lifetime.
No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, every time Harry dies, he always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life 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.

Buy now from Wordery

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