Written by
Claire North in 2014

The First Fifteen Lives of Henry August is an incredidbly interesting book, which is at times funny, poignant and adventurous. I mean, let’s face it: life in general is pretty boring, and you too would need fifteen goes at it to have enough material to get a book together.

So Harry August is somewhat unique. He lives and dies, but is fated to live and die over and over again. His first few goes at Groundhog Life are pretty crappy. In his second life, he even kills himself because he thinks he’s gone completely mental.

The whole plot of the book is that throughout his first fifteen lives, he grows to understand his powers, abilities and his brethren, and also the most dangerous of his kind, the one that wants to discover the secrets of the universe and adversely affects the future to do so. Normally, time travel should be used very sparingly in stories, but this one, I think uses pseudo time travel as a nice central concept.

The book sort of meanders through each of Harry’s first fifteen lives, from his understanding of his own biology and fate, to his relationship with his fathers (he’s adopted) and his contacts in the Cronus Club, which is the casual organisation of those like him. It then finally picks up a villain, in the form of Vincent, another Groundhog Lifer who basically destroyes the world. It’s up to Harry to stop this from happening.

To be honest, the most engrossing part of the book isn’t really the antagonist’s fate. Yes, that part’s interesting from a problem solving point of view, but since you have infinite chances to do so, the sense of urgency just isn’t there. Rather, it’s exploration of the possibilities of just what you would do if you had infinite lives, like you’ve cheated in Super Mario and have all the mushrooms.

If you have some time on your hands, no pun intended, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August is an interesting read. It’s fun, enjoyable and thoroughly engrossing. I thoroughly recommend it.


One of those stories that surprises you with just how good it is

Read this if you…

Like a well written, high concept book with great characters and interesting themes

Don’t read this if you…

Thought Groundhog Day was a crock of schtum. Which, let’s face it, it isn’t!


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