By Claire North
[Warning: some spoilers]
Wow… It took me three days to open this book on the first page and close it on the last. Even halfway through the story I didn’t know exactly where it was headed or what the end was gearing up to be. Even though the introduction starts with the same phrases as the last chapter (and of course makes much more sense by then) and Chapter 1 already sets out the main plot focus, it is not a strictly linear narrative (heehee – inside joke to those who’ve already read it).
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August really only has two main characters, one of which is the narrator, and a handful minor characters who provide delicious context and support the plot. Naturally Harry is the sane, rational protagonist with whom we can relate and through whom we can live various exciting, well-meaning lives. (Spoiler) Vincent is the “other”, the antagonist, perpetually and consistently who we come to suspect halfway through and who we come to hate at about two thirds. I’ll say no more about them.
Time travel and multiple universes are approached very differently in this book than I’ve seen in other places. There is much more order and cohesion here. It is immortality through an infinite looping of the same reel, albeit through a forward progression of loops. Of course people who spend centuries experiencing the same looping of time over and over again get bored or go insane (imagine living from birth to your deathbed, aging like all people to, dying like all people do, but doing it twice, ten times, a hundred times). Others… try to change the world in ways that not only affect themselves, but the future, in irrevocable, catastrophic ways. This is where our protagonist faces his enemy, his nemesis, with suitably complex relationships and motivations thrown into the diabolical mix.