Each time Harry August dies, he is reborn an unwanted child in a small town in England in 1911, with all the memories of his previous lives intact. In his second life, he commits suicide as a small boy, and in one of the dozen that follows, he sees the twin towers fall in 2001.
Although Harry is doomed to live the same years over and over again, he’s not doomed to the same life. He explores many professions, fights in WWII over and over, has many wives (but only one true love), and amasses great sums of money and knowledge (thanks to his photographic memory). With seemingly infinite years ahead him and the freedom to do whatever he wants, Harry is not faced with trying to escape a tragic fate, but instead searches for some grander purpose. At the end of his eleventh life, he finds it, when a little girl appears at his deathbed, requesting that he take back a message in time when he is reborn. “The world is ending, as it always must. But the end of the world is getting faster.”
I love that this story is a more historical literary take on the scifi genre. North treads the line of real science with care, managing to convey the broad concepts while avoiding technical details. Like any great scifi, she also explores implications of future science, specifically, when new technology is discovered ahead of its time.
This is a story with a gradual build, so be prepared for a subtle pace. Enjoy it. This well-worn timey-wimey scifi re-living has been done before, but not this in depth and with such care. The first act spans hundreds of years and the protagonist changes the fate of the world by quietly moving a decimal point in a worksheet of calculations.
“When I am optimistic, I choose to believe that every life I lead, every choice I make, has consequence. That I am not one Harry August but many, a mind flicking from parallel life to parallel life, and that when I die, the world carries on without me, altered by my deeds, marked by my presence.”