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The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August Kindle Edition
"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 --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B00ECE9OD4
- Publisher : Redhook (April 8, 2014)
- Publication date : April 8, 2014
- Language : English
- File size : 2060 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 417 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #42,658 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Harry August has been reborn and doesn’t understand what is happening to him. That is until he finds The Cronus Club. After one of the Cronus club members helps Harry out of a bad situation he cannot escape on his own. Harry leans about the others like him and the rules they must follow. Harry goes on living his lives as a contributing member of the Cronus club until a young girl catches Harry on his death bed and gives him a message to send up from young to old, young to old. “The world is ending faster than it should be and always has in the past.” Can Harry find who is causing the future to change from the past and stop them?
I will say that I ended up really liking the book. The problem is that the beginning moves so very slow. I almost gave up reading this book several times. But kept hearing other people’s reviews about how the story picks up. So I kept going. I’m glad I did. The last 25% of the book really make the story one worth reading. This was a deeper and darker story than what I initially that I was reading. It makes you question so many things. This is the type of book that stays with you longer after you’ve finished reading it.
I struggled with what rating to give this. The slowness of the beginning really is off-putting. There will be many readers not able to finish because the story has no visible direction for so much of the book. I can definitely see how people came to the different rating. The 2 stars will be the people who gave up and stopped reading. The 4 stars will be the people who enjoy the last part so much that it’s enough to overlook the slow build up. Then there will be those like me who really liked the book but just couldn’t get passed how slow the being was and felt that the book suffered for it. So that is how I came to my 3 star rating.
First, the bad: I will say that, at points, this book gets caught up in its own brilliance and comes across as a little pretentious and heavy-handed. At other times the author seemed to deliberately choose the most confusing possible way of getting an idea across, and a few pages I had to reread several times to understand (most of Vincent's conversations with Harry, especially at the beginning, were this way). Some of the more emotionally weighty moments were given a bit TOO much weight and, rather than being memorable in the way of a beautiful view, are instead memorable in the way of getting slapped rather sluggishly with a wet towel.
That said, I was so enraptured that, when I finished this book and realized it was nearly five-hundred pages, I was stunned, because it hadn't felt nearly so long. It takes a while to get going -- the first half of the book is world-building and exposition, but done so exquisitely and with such originality that I found that I didn't really care where it was going, only that I was along for the ride. The book regains its focus at about the halfway point, where all of the exposition from the first half suddenly clicks into place -- I feel the ending of the book would not have been nearly so powerful had the author not taken as much time in the beginning to give her story weight.
What I dismissed in the beginning as a failure to explain the mechanics of her world was instead a vital piece of Harry's moral struggle -- we don't know how the kalachakra work, but neither does he, and what is the price of finding out? Similarly, scenes whose point I did not understand turned out to be vitally important for Harry's development and decision-making -- anything involving Phearson, for example -- and because of these scenes, Harry is remarkably well-developed for a character who spends half the book pretending to be a blank slate.
The characters are very complex, the plot is complicated but fairly easy to understand, the world is wonderfully strange. There's so much to chew on in this book, and quite a lot to parse, both thematically and narratively. This book comes together at the end so beautifully that I was tempted to immediately start a second read-through just to put it all together a bit better. It has its rough points, and perhaps could have been streamlined better, but the overall experience was so exquisite that I have to give it five stars.
Two aspects of this novel reminded me of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. The more lives August experiences the more detached he becomes from ordinary human emotions, and his nemesis and friend Victor, another Ourobouran, has already become a complete sociopath, much like Rice’s vampires after they have lived a few centuries. Also, the first few years after he is reborn, while he is physically a child, he is emotionally an old man, like Rice’s vampire Claudia, who became a vampire as a child.
Top reviews from other countries
Harry is an Ouroboran, destined to live his life again and again. He is one of hundreds, and through the overlapping lifespans of Ouroborans it is possible to send and receive messages from the distant past and distant future. But, in Harry's eleventh life, the messages from the future start changing: the world is ending, and it is accelerating. When Harry's fellow Ouroborans start permanently dying (by someone assassinating their parents before they conceived) or having their memories wiped, and amazing technology appears decades early, he realises that one of their number has betrayed them and is using their power for their own ends, with destructive consequences for humanity.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August was released in 2014 and won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, as well as being nominated for the Arthur C. Clark Award. It gained surprising widespread prominence after being featured on the UK's biggest TV book show. It is written by Catherine Webb under the pseudonym Claire North, which she uses to explore protagonists with unusual abilities (The Sudden Appearance of Hope is in a similar vein).
Webb is a constantly intriguing and interesting author, shifting genres and prose styles with enviable ease as she explores different ideas and characters. At her best, she comes across as a restless, far more prolific and slightly less repetitive (but also somewhat more wordy) Christopher Priest, with her books dwelling on themes such as identity and motivation amongst shifting realities and points of view.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August may be her finest novel to date. The central premise is incredibly strong and it deals with the existential questions surrounding the idea in surprising depth and with logic. Questions are raised such as if the Ouroborans are living in the same world, changing it each time they live through it, or if they are skipping from one timeline to another, and the moral consequences of that for the timelines they leave behind upon death. The overlapping lifespans of different Ouroborans allow them to bring back knowledge from the distant future (since an Ouroboran born in say 1984 dies in the late 21st Century, is reborn, reveals that information to another one who was born in 1925, who can pass it back in their next life etc) and this raises moral quandaries about if they should hoard their knowledge or try to improve humanity's lot.
This latter question consumes much of the novel, especially when it becomes clear that trying to change things often results in far worse consequences. But the dry time travel shenanigans are contrasted against Harry's characterisation, especially the trauma he carries from his first life and his intriguing relationship with a sometimes-nemesis Vincent. The path of the Ouroboran can be a lonely, frustrating one and Harry's dislike of Vincent for his relaxed morality is tempered with respect for his intelligence and just the company of a fellow travel on a journey through their looping lives. This relationship forms the core of the novel and is developed with relish by the author.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August (*****) is a smart and thoughtful reflection on life, love, loss, identity, science and the end of the world.
The premise is that Harry August is re-born each time he dies. He lives his life over again, albeit never in the same way. He accumulates knowledge and experience across his lifetimes, as do others of his rare kind.
The story becomes something of a time travelling thriller, a cat and mouse chase over several repeated lifetimes. I am sorry to say that the characters lacked credibility and depth. I would say a good idea that needed a better writer.
This tale is ravishing, opulent with detail, coercive in promise and utterly compelling.
Yes the story is protracted, necessarily so to validate the protagonist’s rationale, but in fact massively condensed actually, considering the eight hundred years it took to play out.
It has a narrative which jumps timelines back and forth like a sparking intermittent current between electrodes, an adroit craft that demands you concentrate.
The research put in has been vast, the human observation and its depiction exemplary. I felt every angst and frustration, envied Harry’s patience and flinched at the pain he was forced to endure
Apart from the obvious thrills of being able to go back and do it all again, and again, and becoming utterly blasé about the encumbrance of dying, there are some dark horrors addressed in here, gruesome and heinous acts, crimes against natural order and its consequences, but there is also enlightenment, knowledge and plenty of joy to pressed into the pages.
I think Claire North has excelled in writing from a male persona, and mastered the consciousness of an octocentenarian’s psyche convincingly. Although being male and having the ability to go back and correct one’s mistakes, perhaps these memoirs would have been a trifle more rampant than has been alluded to.
I urge you to read this novel; it’s a very bumper book channelled from a very brilliant mind.
Then news comes back from the future, passed from a child who remembers the future to someone elderly, who can pass it on when they are reborn, that the progress of history is being interfered with and the end of the world is coming. Through the lives that follow, Harry sets out to find out who is passing on technology before its time, and work out how to stop them. I was transfixed. Highly recommended.