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Time speeding up, again and again, in a hi-fi, sci-fi, thriller

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry AugustClaire North’s (who she?) wonderful page-turning mind-mangle across, primarily, the mid to latter part of the twentieth century is dizzying, disorientating and dazzling!

North is already a successful author with a couple of pen-names, within particular genres – YA and fantasy. This book is so very very different that it seemed sensible to use separate names, for different audiences, and to avoid preconceptions

Harry August, is a `Kalachakra’. This concept (if not the word itself) can be found in philosophical thought from both the European Classical Philosophical Tradition, and, (where the term comes from) from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition (sometimes written as Kalacakra) It refers to the concept of time being circular, the wheel of time, as opposed to linear The circularity of time is a concept within which many ideas, from the nature of matter/time and their connections, to the idea of parallel universes, forking time/choice, re-incarnation and the transmigration of souls, can find a home. The Kalachakran is also aware, and has memory of their prior incarnations

Complexity and simplicity”, he replied. “Time was simple, is simple. We can divide it into simple parts, measure it, arrange dinner by it, drink whisky to its passage. We can mathematically deploy it, use it to express ideas about the observable universe, and yet, if asked to explain it in simple language to a child – in simple language which is not deceit, of course – we are powerless. The most it ever seems we know how to do with time is to waste it.

North has taken the idea of a kind of repetition of time/choice (say, in filmic terms, Groundhog Day AND Sliding Doors) but has come up with a very clever and mind blowing concept – linking classical thinking and the future – that, from recorded history, there have always BEEN those who were reborn, again and again, within their own time frame – not, as it were, time travellers from the future or from the past – if you were born, as Harry August is, in his first life in 1918, and are then reborn, you are reborn into your own life and your own time – still, where you were born the first time, in the same place, but you will have awareness of that earlier life, and may perhaps make different choices, parallel choices, choices which may be occurring in a parallel universe. The clever twist is, there will be other Kalachakra, born perhaps half a generation or a generation later, who may be able to bring you awareness of the future – and `messages’ can be passed, next generation child to dying elderly person back and forth through time. Confused? Dizzy? Its like walking in one direction on an escalator travelling in the opposite direction.

A club, (dating back thousands of years, reflecting all those thousand years back circular timers) the Cronos Club, a secret organisation, passing messages back and forth in time, exists to protect its own. The law, the rule, which must not be broken is that the large events of past and future must not be changed – to seek to bring future knowledge back into the past is to irretrievably change the nature of the past and thus the future, with potentially cataclysmic effects.

Unfortunately someone, or more than one someone, is subtly doing this. Small scientific changes begn to happen, from some time in the 1920s, which should not have happened at that time. Very very subtle technological changes, opening the possibility for earlier discovery of yet more changes. And some members of the Cronos Club are aware of this.

North keeps a wonderfully firm hand on her inventions, technologies, theories of physics, and marries this to a very human story. This is absolutely a `literary’ novel full of authentic psychology, believable people and relationships in time and space, friendship, betrayal, greed, thirst for power and domination, with a very well thought through twist. There really is plenty for those who like their science fiction to have science within it, not just fiction. There are no aliens, no spaceships, no intergalactic battles – just us, within a period from 1918, comprising most the last century, and a little into this – but with a deeply unsettling, deeply plausible twist – the world is ending (as it will, one day) but, it appears that it will be ending faster as knowledge from a little in the future, gets used a little earlier.

One of first commercially available mobile phones from 1983 - or was that 1963?

One of the first commercially available mobile phones from 1983 – or was that 1963?

The book is full of brilliant pull-the-rug-out twists, which had me absolutely shoutingClaire North Oh NO Oh YES in shock and recognition. And, as a not so often used driver of `what is the central relationship here’ – it is not a romantic one, not a parent/child – it is friendship, and its glues and sunderings.

This was, quite honestly, a book I could not bear to put down, It permeated my dreams two nights in succession, so much so that I woke and had to do some middle of the night further reading, driven by the page-turning (faster and faster, not just the world ending faster!) mind-mangling workout North was whipping up

5 star and then some! Hugely enjoyable, most entertaining, and with lots of really good stuff to chew on

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August Amazon UK
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August Amazon USA