Reviewed by Esmée from the Bored to Death Book Club
If you’ve never heard of Claire North, please don’t be embarrassed. If you Google her name you will find out that Claire North is actually a pseudonym for a ‘an acclaimed British author‘. Do we have another one of J.K. Rowling’s works in hand? I sure hope not.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is about the kalachakra, a specific type of people living throughout all times who live their own lives over and over again. These kalachakras (or ouroborans) form a club – The Cronus Club – to support each other through life and help smoothe the transition from life to death and back to life again. Our main character, Harry August, is of course a kalachakra and we follow him through his first 15 lives, which end with him hunting down a supervillain hiding inside the Cronus Club, destined to destroy the world.
All this sounds rather exciting, but it turns out to be quite a dull read. The premise of living your life over and over again is interesting, but done much better by Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life. However, Harry August is not in the business of being a novel that exposes human nature and horrors of our history. The book should have been a fast-paced exciting sci-fi story, something you can’t put down because you know the world is going to end and the future is inevitable. The ‘science’ behind the kalachakra should have been mind-boggling, but it’s mostly confusing and – even worse – boring. Nothing in the book made me marvel at the world created by North and the only character that was even remotely interesting was the villain of it all, trying to unravel where the kalachakra came from by way of a quantum mirror. I wish the book would have focused more on the origins of the time-travelers and the possibilities this lends to a story, and widened its focus to the actual end of the world described at the very start of the book.
That said, it’s not a bad book. It’s quite well-written and interesting, but it’s definitely not the genre-crossing sci-fi/literary fiction work of genius people make it out to be. It’s a great book for people who want to ease themselves into sci-fi reading or people who are fully emerged in the genre and strapped for reading fodder.
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There is no ebook available for The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, but there is one available for Life After Life.