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The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August Hardcover – April 8, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Redhook (April 8, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316399612
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316399616
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (89 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,660 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Harry August isn’t human. Well, that’s not quite accurate. He is human but a different sort of human from the rest of us: he was born (in the ladies’ washroom of a train station in England in 1919), he lives a certain number of years, and he dies—and then he’s born again, right back where he started, and a handful of years later his memories of his first life return. Harry is, like a few others, a kalachakra, an immortal who is constantly reborn, each time with all the memories of his previous lives. This wonderful novel, narrated by Harry, ranges back and forth in time as he recounts episodes from his various lives, but it’s all held together by a compelling mystery involving nothing less than the end of the world itself (a thousand years in the future). Beautifully written and structured, the book should be a big hit with SF fans. The pseudonymous author’s name is being kept secret, but fans of SF and fantasy authors China Mieville, Christopher Priest, and Adam Roberts might note a stylistic similarity, especially in the novel’s elegant prose. Whoever Claire North turns out to be, he or she has written a remarkable book. --David Pitt


"An astonishing re-invention of the time travel narrative. Bold, magical and masterful."—Mike Carey

"Wonderful novel... held together by a compelling mystery involving nothing less than the end of the world itself. Beautifully written and structured...a remarkable book."—Booklist (Starred Review)


"A tremendously entertaining ride... You're sure to enjoy the trip."—Toronto Sunday Star

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Amelia Gremelspacher TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 8, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This superlative novel explores the meaning of time, friendship, and personal fate with the use of a marvelous premise. In an ingenuous variation on reincarnation, Harry is reborn in life after life as himself. The start of each of his lives is identical to the his first. Innocent of this fact as an infant, Harry grows into his realization year by year until, at the age of seven, he is fully aware of his prior lives. In his second life, he becomes mad and kills himself in despair. But as the cycle continues, he adjust more and more to his fate. He grows to understand how to use his knowledge from the previous life to allow him leisure to explore the possibilities in his life.

The premise is used to perfection by this mystery author who has used this pseudonym. The thought of encountering past failed loves and challenges to infinity is definitely daunting. Harry learns he is an Ouroboran, one of a community of people around the world born into this condition. Many belong to the Cronos Club who endeavor to save young members the tedium of having to live the hostage fate of adolescence without power to affect their own lives. In addition, the issue arises as to how much to effect their worlds. Here we encounter the problem of time travel, how much dare you change the world without fatal intrusion?

Much of this book concerns his efforts to enrich the fate he has been dealt. He is part of the minority who remembers everything. Knowing he will be reborn, he takes risks for knowledge, and well, for thrills. He learns fine arts, military process, the span of his years from different perspectives. He falls in love and is able to consider a future reenactment. The possibilities immediately enmesh the reader .

Another central premise is that of quantum theory.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Peter S. Bradley on April 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase makes for a captivating, fascinating and thrilling read.

Harry August didn't have the best of starts in life. He was born in 1918, the bastard child of a British aristocratic family as a result when his mother - a serving girl to the family - was raped by the family scion. Then his mother died in childbirth and he was given to the family's gardener and his wife to raise. His life was commonplace and unremarkable, and his options were limited. Then, as an old man, he died, and discovered that he was a "kalachakra," one of the rare - 1 in 500,000 births - who will relive their lives over and over again.

We see Harry live his first 15 years, as he goes through the learning curve of live as a kalachakra, taking only his knowledge and experience with him from life to life, trying out new approaches to life - a major one is simply surviving World War II - and gaining more experience. After, he discovers the "Chronus Club," things become easier; the Chronus Club exists to allow other kalachakra give their younger kith a hand up, mostly by taking them out of an extended repeat of childhood and adolescence, which must be truly unbearable.

It's a good life, but there are rules. The first rule is to never let anyone know your "point of origin." Abort a kalachakra in the womb and they never exist, ever. The second rule is that the memory of a kalachakra can be wiped clean, and if it is, the kalachakra starts his next life as if it was his first life. The third rule is to never make big changes in history.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Alexia VINE VOICE on April 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This book has an original, unique premise that I haven't come across before - what if you were reincarnated every time you died, but reborn as yourself and retained your memories? Stuck in the same timeframe during each lifetime, but with the memories and experience to change your path however you chose? I found this concept fascinating!

Harry is a kalachakra, described as one who loops perpetually through the same course of historic events. Most of the kalachakra eventually discover (or are discovered by) the Cronus Club, a loosely organized group where the members help future generations deal with their unique situation. Harry is a little unique among the unique because he remembers everything. Called a mnemonic, the kalachakra who retain everything are considered not only rare, but also a little dangerous.

Most of the members of the Cronus Club are self-indulgent and unconcerned with the outside world. While there is a plausible explanation why they don't get involved in the big events (like killing Hitler), I couldn't help but feel they were frittering away this wonderful gift. What's the point of endless lives if you just spend them partying your time away? But that's a philosophical discussion best left for another day....

While the story bounces around a bit between Harry's different lives, I never had trouble following the plot and actually enjoyed connecting the puzzle pieces! Harry is an interesting character and made a good narrator, but this is one story where I wouldn't have minded multiple narrators to get other POVs about the life of a kalachakra.

Highly recommended reading for anyone in search of an interesting story! It was not only a good read, but left me wondering how I'd respond in a similar situation. I hope I wouldn't fritter my life away, but guess I'll never know. Unless that sense of deja vu means....
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