Thursday, June 2, 2016

Review: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August


by Claire North

Narrated by Peter Kenny

Reviewed: 8/3/15

A Strangely Satisfying Mash-Up of Groundhog Day and Death of Ivan Ilych

This one has a terrific gimmick, explained in the first page or two, so no worries on a spoiler: Harry August gets to repeat his life over and over, preserving the memories and skills of his previous one. Claire North does a good job of exploring the idea, getting to the obvious advantages -- like investing in a company you know will eventually grow huge -- and she offers some nice meditations on culture and history: in her fantasy, some major events (like World War II) are fixed, but others (like whether a minor serial killer lives to perpetrate his crimes) are contingent.

If such foundational cleverness weren't enough, North eventually calls on Harry to ask himself the basic human question: what is life for. Except, of course, here the question is "What are lives for?" Very much to her credit, the novel explores that thought in creative ways and never entirely resolves it.

Throw in a dash of intrigue at the end, and this book keeps surprising in new and satisfying ways. Highly recommended.

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