“The world is ending, as it always must. But the end of the world is getting faster.”
This message is passed from a young girl to an elderly, dying Harry August late in his eleventh life. The trick is that Harry August can’t really die, at least not in the traditional sense. Each time he dies, he is reborn at exactly the same time and place to live his life again, recovering all memory of his past lives a few years into childhood.
And he’s not alone. A very small subgroup of people have this same characteristic, and they find each other across time, passing messages backward and forward across the generations. In general, they take care not to change any of the big moments in history, but now someone has decided to play with the fate of the world. Harry must act before the universe itself is damaged beyond repair.
I won’t give away more than this basic setup, because part of the delight of The Fifteen Lives of Harry August is in discovering how it all unfolds. Time travel stories necessarily have logical inconsistencies, and the same is true here, but Claire North has kept them to a relative minimum, perhaps more by sleight-of-hand distraction, developing characters and ideas so well that by the time I gave the logic too much thought, I was already so involved in the story that I wasn’t really bothered.
I was more nervous that, as is often the case, the author wouldn’t know what to do with the ending, that it would peter out in anticlimax or collapse under its own weight or resort to cheap tricks and cheat its way through. North is better than that. She steams right on through to one of the more satisfying endings I’ve read in quite some time.
Claire North is the best kind of speculative writer: imaginative, unafraid to take on big ideas, smart enough to follow through. I’m excited to read more.