So as you’re all probably well aware, I strive really hard to be a very positive person – sometimes relentlessly so. I genuinely believe that life is an attitude problem and if you focus on the negative, you can’t be surprised when things are negative. Granted, sometimes life just really is a bummer and I get that. So I say this because this is my 100th review on my Goodreads profile!!! I would love to tell you this was a 5-star read for this milestone, but alas it was not. So maybe I’m a little extra bitter this time because I wanted this read to knock it out of the park, but it’s kind of my own fault and I’ll get to that later. So off we go then!
Harry August appears to be just a normal man. Born, living, dying like anyone else you’d see on the streets. The only difference is that Harry August isn’t a normal man, he’s a kalachakra. A person who is reborn at the same point in time over and over again with his memories remaining intact. As Harry’s eleventh life is coming to a close a little girl, perched on the edge of his death bed tells Harry that as each cycle of his life closes the end of the world is coming sooner and sooner. This message has been passed down from child to adult, child to adult, over and over again ultimately reaching Harry. This little girl charges Harry with helping keep the apocalypse from coming to fruition.
The world is ending, as it always must. But the end of the world is getting faster.
As Harry navigates this news and tries to understand how he can assist in helping he finds the Cronus Club. A secret group of kalachakra created to help each other out, especially during early childhood when hiding the fact that you’ve lived numerous lives and definitely don’t have the mind of a child is the most difficult. While the kalachakra have a code to not interfere with major points in history, as to not drastically change the future – someone has broken this rule. The message being the world is ending at an ever increasing pace, and we must do something to slow it down.
We are no more and no less than minds, and it is human for the mind to be imperfect and to forget.
As we continue down the path of my ever growing redundancy problem, it kills me when a book has so much promise and falls totally short. I mean, there’s nothing in this synopsis that doesn’t sound intricate, thrilling and endlessly interesting. However, in execution I found The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August to be tantamount to watching cement dry for the majority of the read. This could be my own fault, I started this book, couldn’t get into it, put it down and didn’t listen to my instincts and came back to it only to find that my original assertion that this book wasn’t for me was definitely correct. Ah, why can I not trust my gut sometimes.
A good portion of the start of this book revolves around the ins and outs of what it means to be reborn over and over with your memories. How Harry handles different situations, how telling another person and the subsequent interest of the government and other nefarious organizations affect that life. North discusses what it’s like to be a child who is both “six years old and one hundred and fifty” along with the grief, alienation, joy and excitement to be found in living such a life. The range of emotion and sheer imagination that went into this was truly incredible and for the most part, I enjoyed these aspects.
What is the point of me? Either to change a world–many, many worlds, each touched by the choices I make in my life, for every deed a consequence, and in every love and every sorrow truth–or nothing at all.
There is a long list of things that didn’t work for me. As I mentioned earlier, this book moves slower than molasses in January. However, I’ve read slow books and still walked away loving them. What really lost me here are the numerous plot holes. If you’re going to write something of this scope, you’re also running the risk of falling into plot hole traps for the sake of convenience. You can’t eliminate the laws of physics because it doesn’t fit with your story line – you’ve got to think through that story line to make these two things fit. An example of this is that North wants death to be simultaneously a big deal and a small issue for kalachakra. However, you can’t have Harry being endlessly cavalier about death, while also touting that our hero is in danger.
The problem with time travel and alternate universes is it takes a lot of intricate thought to create a story line that doesn’t fall to pieces upon closer inspection. Kalachakra have a “no interference” policy, i.e. you can’t have someone living their life out and then killing Hitler because it would change too many aspects and could end the life line of another. However, Harry can marry different people, serve in wars, then not serve in wars, change small things, change seemingly larger things but there isn’t any consistency. Who determines what’s a “big deal” to change and what isn’t?
Time is not wisdom; wisdom is not intellect.
My last and final gripe is this: Harry August was a boring AF narrator and MC. I just couldn’t get into his inner monologues and to be a person who is born over and over with your memories intact and still be a snooze fest seems like more work than just being interesting. So I don’t think I need to tell anyone that this wasn’t my favorite read. I’m always hesitant to negatively review things because I’m no author and the scope of writing an entire novel I find supremely impressive. While this one wasn’t for me, I could see this being fun for others – especially a book club given the various details going on in this read.
Long Story Short:
Suggested For: Fans of time related stories, alternative universes and reincarnation. Those interested in sci-fi with a bit of fantasy thrown in and those who have a lot more patience for slower reads than I do.
Music Mood: On Jordan’s Stormy Banks by Peter Bradley Adams
Have you read The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August? If so, what did you think? What are some things that disappoint you the most in a read? Drop me a note in the comments and let me know!