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The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August Paperback – 28 Aug 2014
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Utterly readable, utterly believable and compelling . . . one of the fiction highlights of the decade (Judy Finnigan, Richard and Judy Book Club)
Beautiful and gripping (GUARDIAN)
The writing is impeccable . . Plus Harry is a fascinating main character . . . And if his next 15 lives are half as eventful, we look forward to the sequel (HEAT)
A masterful literary thriller (io9)
An astonishing re-invention of the time-travel narrative. Bold, magical and masterful (M. R. Carey, author of THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS)
I don't say this lightly but The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is one of the top ten books I've ever read (James Dashner, bestselling author of THE MAZE RUNNER)
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 . . . Beautifully written and structured . . . a remarkable book (BOOKLIST)
North builds her clever conceit into an emotionally satisfying novel (NEW SCIENTIST)
Every bit as good as its title. (And, to avoid ambiguity, I love the title.) (WEEKEND HERALD)
Grabs you from the first page; it crackles along at a rollicking pace . . . unputdownable (THE SATURDAY PAPER)
A truly extraordinary novel: an impeccable portrait of a friendship tortured by time in which masterful character and fantastic narrative come together to tremendous effect (TOR.COM)
Terrific, smart and entertaining (Patrick Ness)
Claire North's sophisticated writing and astute plotting have made this my book of the year (Peter F. Hamilton)
A thoughtful and considered time-travel novel, shocking twists and, most important of all, a beautiful character. Harry August will break your heart fifteen times (Jared Shurin)
A brave, genre-defying novel, which is mind-blowing in its originality and bold concept . . . Stunning! (NOVELICIOUS)
Part unique and intriguing mystery, part philosophical look at life, memory and time travel this story kept me totally gripped from the opening words to the mind-blowing finale (BITE THE BOOK)
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is an extraordinary novel, as the publicity has promised (THE SPECULATIVE SCOTSMAN)
An extraordinary book . . . an impressive piece of work. (Upcoming4me)
The extraordinary journey of one unforgettable character - a story of friendship and betrayal, loyalty and redemption, love and loneliness and the inevitable march of time. *Richard and Judy Book Club pick* *Waterstones Book Club Pick* *BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick*See all Product description
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Top customer reviews
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.
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.
Avoiding spoilers, the books takes you through the life of Harry August, who is immortal in a different way than you'd have thought; he dies, but is reborn again in the same body and lives his life all over, with his memories from the former lives returning when he's just a child. As such, over time, he's able to gather huge knowledge of world events which both leads him into trouble and saves him from it many a time. How many times have you said to yourself, "That's not a mistake I'll be making again!"?
Although it's quite a long read, I did find it one of those books that you simply have to find out what happens next and that kept me coming back. It was an unusual purchase for me, quite unlike the novels I'd usually buy, but worth downloading the sample and find out for yourself, because the sample really is representative of the whole book. As my title says, if you like the sample, you'll like the whole book.
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When you start the book it is rather slow paced and foggy up until you start to wrap your head around the ideas and themes that you are...Read more