I’ve always been a fan of time loop stories. The first such tale I remember reading was a brilliant little short story called 12:01. Then came Groundhog Day and a number of very good episodes of Star Trek. All of these time loop stories worked on a fairly short interval, from an hour to a few days. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August takes the time loop to a new length, the length of a man’s life.
At first Harry is shocked to find himself in an infant body again. But as he relives his life, he finds that there are others like himself and they come to his rescue as soon as they can. He does what anyone might do, he treats each life as a new adventure and tries his hand at business, crime, adventure. But then he gets word that the world is coming to an end and only he is in a position to help.
It seems that from time to time one of these repeating immortals gets the idea to change more than his own life. It’s that whole if you had a time machine, would you kill Hitler thing. The problem with the perfect world is that it can only ever be one person’s perfect world, which kind of screws things up for everyone else. So when this happens, they send word back through the reborn that this person must be stopped.
The bulk of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August has to do with Harry and a friend of his who wants to rule the universe. Even worse, he knows how to stop his fellow immortals from being reborn. So Harry ends up having to go to battle alone. But it isn’t a standard battle, it’s more like a very long undercover assignment.
I listened to the audiobook version and found the reader, Peter Kenny, to be well suited for the material.
I liked The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, but I was left with a few doubts about the ending. When I read it, I was very satisfied with it, but when I thought about it, I had to wonder if the villain had outwitted the hero. It was still a good read.