The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North. *SPOILERS*

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« on: August 06, 2018, 10:41:26 pm »
So, I have finished the book and wanted to discuss with anyone who has read this. Such a great book.

What really kept me engaged the whole time was the premise. Which is, imho, a play on morality, a "what if", if you will. If you could live your life over and over, and remember this previous lives, what would you do? And North tackles this subject very well. Would you change thing to benefit yourself? Would you stay in the monotony of your everyday life and not effect catastrophic events? Or would you?

Harry doesn't mess with any of these events such as WWII, Cold War, Vietnam War or any other of the huge events of the 20th century. Well, to an extent any way. And, what I loved was that these events happened over and over again. He does dabble a little here and there, but the action starts when his close friend, or enemy, Vince/Vitali does begin to. Vince wants to know what created the world, and all that is in it. And, believes he can by creating a Quantum Mirror, to look at life on a microscopic(?) level. He does this by slight of hand, introducing tech from the 80's and 90's well before the 60's. And, this makes the "end of the world" come sooner and sooner.

A whole lot more to talk about, but would live to hear the opinion of others first. I'm looking at you ThoughtsofThelli!
“No. I am your end. Before your eyes I will put your seed to the knife. I will quarter your carcass and feed it to the dogs. Your bones I will grind to dust and cast to the winds. I will strike down those who speak your name or the name of your fathers, until ‘Yursalka’ becomes as meaningless as infant babble. I will blot you out, hunt down your every trace! The track of your life has come to me,

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« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2018, 11:56:52 pm »
So, I have finished the book and wanted to discuss with anyone who has read this. Such a great book.

What really kept me engaged the whole time was the premise. Which is, imho, a play on morality, a "what if", if you will. If you could live your life over and over, and remember this previous lives, what would you do? And North tackles this subject very well. Would you change thing to benefit yourself? Would you stay in the monotony of your everyday life and not effect catastrophic events? Or would you?

Harry doesn't mess with any of these events such as WWII, Cold War, Vietnam War or any other of the huge events of the 20th century. Well, to an extent any way. And, what I loved was that these events happened over and over again. He does dabble a little here and there, but the action starts when his close friend, or enemy, Vince/Vitali does begin to. Vince wants to know what created the world, and all that is in it. And, believes he can by creating a Quantum Mirror, to look at life on a microscopic(?) level. He does this by slight of hand, introducing tech from the 80's and 90's well before the 60's. And, this makes the "end of the world" come sooner and sooner.

I might need to reread before going deeper into the question of morality/what if, because there were a few events in there I'm sure I have forgotten by now (I definitely don't have Harry or Vincent's kind of memory ;)).
I do wonder if the predicted end of the world was as inevitable as the characters thought. Could it have been avoided if the execution of Vincent's quantum mirror had gone even a little differently? (not talking about the sabotage, but the mirror itself) We'll never know - and we're not supposed to - but it's something to ponder on (again, might be forgetting some details).


A whole lot more to talk about, but would live to hear the opinion of others first. I'm looking at you ThoughtsofThelli!

Some disjointed ideas for now (because it's almost 1 AM here, might be more coherent later in the day):
-I remember people at westeros.org discussing this book (looked through that thread months ago) brought up the question of why the same "linear" people existed in every timeline if the kalachakras changed history (even if very minutely) during pretty much every life after their first. I think that it may be because every single kalachakra's birth and circumstances thereof becomes a "fixed" point in time (though not completely immutable, because they can be erased from existence...), and so their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. all have to exist, have met at the appropriate times, and so on for them to be able to exist in turn.
-For that matter, are kalachakras themselves sterile? I think we're led to assume they are - Harry mentions a couple of times that he never had children with any of his wives, and if I remember correctly there are others that are mentioned as not having any children as well in passing.
-Am I the only one that thinks that Vincent might have eventually suspected the Forgettings weren't working on Harry and actually gave him false information at the end? Maybe I'm just pessimistic, but I don't think it's impossible either...
"But you’ve simply made the discovery that Thelli made—only without the benefit of her unerring sense of fashion."
-Anasűrimbor Kayűtas (The Great Ordeal, chapter 13)

"You prefer to believe women victims to their passions, but we can be at least as calculating as you. Love does not make us weak, but strong."
-Ykoriana of the Masks (The Third God, chapter 27)

MSJ

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« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2018, 12:30:23 am »
Quote from:  ThoughtsofThelli
-Am I the only one that thinks that Vincent might have eventually suspected the Forgettings weren't working on Harry and actually gave him false information at the end? Maybe I'm just pessimistic, but I don't think it's impossible either...

I don't think Vince knew that the Forgetting didn't work on Harry. He might have had some reservations about it, maybe. But, I believe the reason for him wanting to do it again and again, was to keep Harry from "learning" about his self. That was just my take on it, but you've got me thinking with your thoughts.

Quote
-For that matter, are kalachakras themselves sterile? I think we're led to assume they are - Harry mentions a couple of times that he never had children with any of his wives, and if I remember correctly there are others that are mentioned as not having any children as well in passing.

Yes I believe they were all sterile. And, it was a question on my mind during the whole book. I think it's quite clear when we meet Akinleye. Before her Forgetting she has tons of sex, drugs and rock n roll. Ends up with AIDS. So, all that sex unprotected and no babies. While it's possible she was on birth control, I believe it was just a clue that they are all sterile.
“No. I am your end. Before your eyes I will put your seed to the knife. I will quarter your carcass and feed it to the dogs. Your bones I will grind to dust and cast to the winds. I will strike down those who speak your name or the name of your fathers, until ‘Yursalka’ becomes as meaningless as infant babble. I will blot you out, hunt down your every trace! The track of your life has come to me,

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« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2018, 12:36:03 am »
Quote
remember people at westeros.org discussing this book (looked through that thread months ago) brought up the question of why the same "linear" people existed in every timeline if the kalachakras changed history (even if very minutely) during pretty much every life after their first. I think that it may be because every single kalachakra's birth and circumstances thereof becomes a "fixed" point in time (though not completely immutable, because they can be erased from existence...), and so their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc. all have to exist, have met at the appropriate times, and so on for them to be able to exist in turn.

This is a great thought. One thing I'd like to add. Remember, there are kalachakra's in all previous generations also. And, all of them are affecting history timelines also. So, the same linear people showing up again and again is something to think on.
“No. I am your end. Before your eyes I will put your seed to the knife. I will quarter your carcass and feed it to the dogs. Your bones I will grind to dust and cast to the winds. I will strike down those who speak your name or the name of your fathers, until ‘Yursalka’ becomes as meaningless as infant babble. I will blot you out, hunt down your every trace! The track of your life has come to me,

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« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2018, 11:58:54 am »
I don't think Vince knew that the Forgetting didn't work on Harry. He might have had some reservations about it, maybe. But, I believe the reason for him wanting to do it again and again, was to keep Harry from "learning" about his self. That was just my take on it, but you've got me thinking with your thoughts.

I didn't say he knew for sure either, and yes, I do know he did it multiple times (though we know those were unsuccessful) to keep Harry from trying to stop his plans while still having his valuable help with the whole project. My previous comment was a bit unclear, but what I meant was: after the sabotage and they were both left dying of radiation poisoning, Vincent might have started to have some suspicions. He wouldn't know for sure, of course, but what I thought was that even a slight suspicion might be enough to get him to pretend to be honest with Harry and give him plausible-sounding information. After all, Harry wouldn't be 100% sure the information was true until he went in search of Vincent's parents during his next life. Again, this might just be me being overly pessimistic/paranoid, but I feel like the likelihood of this happening is not zero...


Yes I believe they were all sterile. And, it was a question on my mind during the whole book. I think it's quite clear when we meet Akinleye. Before her Forgetting she has tons of sex, drugs and rock n roll. Ends up with AIDS. So, all that sex unprotected and no babies. While it's possible she was on birth control, I believe it was just a clue that they are all sterile.

Same thing with me on my first read, I started noticing those bits and pieces and eventually realized they must be sterile. Good point on Akinleye. I think she was also one of the others I was remembering - wasn't she married in one of her other lives and mentioned she had never been able to have children with her husband? Of course, someone could make the point that we don't know for sure all kalachakras are sterile. Maybe only Harry and Akinleye are, maybe most of them are sterile and a few are not, who knows. But I feel that all of them being sterile is the case as well. None of the others seem to ever be mentioned as having children in any of their lives, and you'd think that statistically speaking, we'd have seen it happen at least once or twice.

And I might be wrong, but do any of them have any (half-)siblings? They all seem to be only children in addition to (most likely) being sterile. Harry's father never seems to have had any children with his wife in any of Harry's lives. Akinleye was specifically mentioned as being an only child if I remember correctly, same for Vincent.


This is a great thought. One thing I'd like to add. Remember, there are kalachakra's in all previous generations also. And, all of them are affecting history timelines also. So, the same linear people showing up again and again is something to think on.

Yes, I know, my theory has every single direct ancestor of any kalachakra being fixed in time and so being around for all of their lives. That includes ancestors living centuries, millennia, etc. ago.
I did find a hole in my own theory when rereading some of the earlier chapters last night, though. Jenny was married to Harry during his third life and the two had no children (and presumably she didn't have any children from a prior or later relationship), but when Harry meets her in a different life, she is married to someone else (not Vincent, this was before that) and has several children. That doesn't work if she was always supposed to be the ancestress of a kalachakra living at some point in the future, but I don't know if it completely disproves it either... Maybe some linears are around because of something similar to my theory (there has to be something to the fact of being born at the same exact time under the same exact circumstances despite having so many other kalachakras changing history before that) and others because of unknown reasons?
« Last Edit: August 07, 2018, 12:04:13 pm by ThoughtsOfThelli »
"But you’ve simply made the discovery that Thelli made—only without the benefit of her unerring sense of fashion."
-Anasűrimbor Kayűtas (The Great Ordeal, chapter 13)

"You prefer to believe women victims to their passions, but we can be at least as calculating as you. Love does not make us weak, but strong."
-Ykoriana of the Masks (The Third God, chapter 27)

MSJ

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« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2018, 03:45:29 pm »
Quote from:  ThoughtsofThelli
I didn't say he knew for sure either, and yes, I do know he did it multiple times (though we know those were unsuccessful) to keep Harry from trying to stop his plans while still having his valuable help with the whole project. My previous comment was a bit unclear, but what I meant was: after the sabotage and they were both left dying of radiation poisoning, Vincent might have started to have some suspicions. He wouldn't know for sure, of course, but what I thought was that even a slight suspicion might be enough to get him to pretend to be honest with Harry and give him plausible-sounding information. After all, Harry wouldn't be 100% sure the information was true until he went in search of Vincent's parents during his next life. Again, this might just be me being overly pessimistic/paranoid, but I feel like the likelihood of this happening is not zero...

You definitely made me think about this and I understand where you are coming from. Now, looking back, I think I felt the same way in the hospital scene. Almost that Vince did feel that Harry remembered. And, maybe that's why Vince told him his origin point. Because, if he couldn't wipe Harry's memory, then he knew he was fighting a losing battle and Harry would continue to sabotage the quantum mirror.
“No. I am your end. Before your eyes I will put your seed to the knife. I will quarter your carcass and feed it to the dogs. Your bones I will grind to dust and cast to the winds. I will strike down those who speak your name or the name of your fathers, until ‘Yursalka’ becomes as meaningless as infant babble. I will blot you out, hunt down your every trace! The track of your life has come to me,

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« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2018, 04:19:35 pm »
You definitely made me think about this and I understand where you are coming from. Now, looking back, I think I felt the same way in the hospital scene. Almost that Vince did feel that Harry remembered. And, maybe that's why Vince told him his origin point. Because, if he couldn't wipe Harry's memory, then he knew he was fighting a losing battle and Harry would continue to sabotage the quantum mirror.

Ooh, so you think Vincent knew he was beaten either way and told Harry his origin point as a way of committing suicide? That was not what I got from those last few scenes when I read them, but it's a very interesting interpretation. And who knows...unless I'm very much mistaken, Vincent never did learn Harry's own origin point, did he? Adding this to Virginia having been mind-wiped, he would have had no one to kill Harry for him anymore. And if he had suspicions, he could have figured out Forgetting would never work on Harry anyway. So yes, you might be right, he could have decided that there was no way he'd ever manage to get the Quantum Mirror project to succeed.
This book is great, lots of material for new theories and speculation here. :)


An aside about origin points - Harry was very lucky that the circumstances of his birth were obscure enough to stay hidden for several lifetimes. Yes, I know, I know, it's not as much "luck" as something that is necessary for the story to happen the way it does, but still, think about it. Any kalachakra born in the modern era would comparatively be fairly easy to kill. If Virginia was able to target so many in the early 20th century alone, just imagine how dangerous things could be for kalachakras born in the late 20th century/early 21st century if any of the older ones thought they were interfering too much with their plans. Kind of makes me wish we could get some other work set in this universe but at a later date (like a short story or something). This whole premise can create many, many possibilities...
"But you’ve simply made the discovery that Thelli made—only without the benefit of her unerring sense of fashion."
-Anasűrimbor Kayűtas (The Great Ordeal, chapter 13)

"You prefer to believe women victims to their passions, but we can be at least as calculating as you. Love does not make us weak, but strong."
-Ykoriana of the Masks (The Third God, chapter 27)

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« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2018, 01:37:19 pm »
Well, here's my reasoning for, maybe, that being true. Maybe it was test by Vince. He let Harry take care of all the orders for the quatum mirror and thats how Harry destroyed it. By making a few rods here and there be shorter. Changing C2O2 to CO2 (just an example, I'm no scientist). When it meltdown, maybe Vince had some suspicions, maybe he didn't. But, he really spilled the beans after Harry talked his way out of the Forgetting machine. I mean as a Kalachakra, you DO NOT give away your origin point. You know it is a chance at total death. Yet, Vince did, and that is what got me thinking. After your response, of course.
“No. I am your end. Before your eyes I will put your seed to the knife. I will quarter your carcass and feed it to the dogs. Your bones I will grind to dust and cast to the winds. I will strike down those who speak your name or the name of your fathers, until ‘Yursalka’ becomes as meaningless as infant babble. I will blot you out, hunt down your every trace! The track of your life has come to me,

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« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2018, 06:03:43 pm »
Just a note regarding my previous post - I (eventually) noticed I was a complete idiot and had managed to forget that Vincent does know Harry's origin point. It's right there at the very beginning of the manuscript (also the book we read). Duh.
Anyway, the point still stands that he wouldn't be able to do much about it he was planning on deceiving Harry about his own origin point, being younger than him and all. Virginia was mind-wiped during the last life of Harry we read about (or was it the previous one? I could almost swear it was the last, but...) and she seemed to be Vincent's only accomplice able to target him. So erasing Harry from the timeline altogether before his 16th life wouldn't be possible for Vincent. I suppose he could try to find Virginia and start again from scratch, but she'd be for all intents and purposes a regular human during the next loop. At the very earliest, they'd be able to erase Harry before his 17th life, and before then he might have been able to figure a way to keep ahead of Vincent somehow.


Well, here's my reasoning for, maybe, that being true. Maybe it was test by Vince. He let Harry take care of all the orders for the quatum mirror and thats how Harry destroyed it. By making a few rods here and there be shorter. Changing C2O2 to CO2 (just an example, I'm no scientist). When it meltdown, maybe Vince had some suspicions, maybe he didn't. But, he really spilled the beans after Harry talked his way out of the Forgetting machine. I mean as a Kalachakra, you DO NOT give away your origin point. You know it is a chance at total death. Yet, Vince did, and that is what got me thinking. After your response, of course.

Sure, I get it. :) I still like both options, because I could see both scenarios playing out:
a) Vincent figured out Harry's sabotage and the failure of the Forgettings (or at least the last one). But he knows Harry will never give up trying to stop the quantum mirror project from happening, and he can't get him over to his side. His only accomplice that could kill Harry permanently has been mind-wiped and even if he seeks her out again, he has to start from scratch (and even then, it is very possible that Harry just makes Virginia Forget again). Finding other accomplices will be hard, if not impossible (considering the sheer number of kalachakras he and Virginia had to kill, not many of them seemed to be potential allies). So he gives up and effectively commits suicide by deliberately telling Harry his own origin point.
b) Even after everything that happened, Vincent is stubborn enough to keep trying. He caught on to (some of) the sabotage/faked Forgettings, and deceives Harry with a story just plausible enough (possible, didn't Harry himself have a non-kalachakra decoy whose "origin point" people could find out, thinking it was his?). He is still left without Virginia's help for the next couple of lives, but now knows Harry's origin point. He can't do anything about Harry for the next life, being younger, but hides and stays on the down low during the next loop. Maybe he contacts Virginia during that life, maybe during the next, anyway, the QM project gets put on hold until he can get Virginia back on his side (and finds some way to protect her from Forgetting/Harry's allies/etc.). After that is done, Virginia erases Harry during the following loop and both continue with the QM project. Though this "scenario B" may be doomed anyway - even with Harry gone, it is likely some of the kalachakras who survived manage to get both Virginia and Vincent eventually. After all, the world ended at least twice before (one of those being caused by Victor Hoeness - what is it with those "V" names?) and that scenario was averted both times.

...and now I'm just practically writing fanfiction, but speculating is fun. ;) After rereading a few chapters, I also have a few more thoughts and points I want to discuss, so I'll leave those for a future post.
"But you’ve simply made the discovery that Thelli made—only without the benefit of her unerring sense of fashion."
-Anasűrimbor Kayűtas (The Great Ordeal, chapter 13)

"You prefer to believe women victims to their passions, but we can be at least as calculating as you. Love does not make us weak, but strong."
-Ykoriana of the Masks (The Third God, chapter 27)

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« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2018, 11:30:04 pm »
Some more thoughts.


Rereading early chapters - seems that not only do (the majority of) linear people exist in every single life Harry experiences, but their lives also seem to be quite similar, if not the same. For instance, Jenny married Harry in his 4th life. In his 7th life, he meets her again:
Quote from: TFFLoHA, Chapter 9
"Dr Munroe," I replied. "We've met before."
"Have we? I can't quite..."
"You studied medicine at Edinburgh University, and lived for the first year of your time in a small house in Stockbridge with four boys who were all frightened of you. You babysat for your next-door neighbour's twins to make a few more pennies, and decided that you had to be a surgeon after seeing a still-beating heart working away on the operating table."
"That's right," she murmured, turning her body a little further in the chair to look at me. "But I'm sorry, I still don't remember who you are."
Apparently all of these things that happened in Jenny's early life that Harry remembers from his 4th life still happened in this loop. Which, to me, is even stranger than these people existing in all loops. You'd think that even if they never directly interacted with any kalachakras in any given loop, their lives might still be indirectly influenced and have small differences at least... Especially for people like Jenny, who live in relative proximity to at least one kalachakra and are in the same social/academic/etc. circles.
Quote from: TFFLoHA, Chapter 9
She had two children.
Jenny had always wanted children.
These two children that Jenny has in Harry's 7th life, besides serving as early evidence that kalachakras are sterile, curiously seem to be (among?) the only mentioned linears that do not exist in every loop. This detail doesn't seem to have much significance, though, as they never come into play.


I also found a passage which increased the potential fridge horror of kalachakras for me:
Quote from: TFFLoHA, Chapter 24
"It's one of our primary roles," she replied airily. "Childhood is the most taxing time of our lives, unless of course you're genetically predisposed towards a ghastly death or some sort of inherited disease. (...)"
Imagine someone is born a kalachakra and also happens to suffer from some rare genetic disease that will result in death at a very young age. A disease that has no treatment during the period that person lives in. They won't have a cycle of birth, death, birth again, and so on like the rest of their kind. They'll have a cycle of birth, suffering, dying, just to be born again and experience a few hellish years. Over and over again. Just think of that.


Another topic of potential interest: the accumulation of injuries/damage throughout lives. Also rich in fridge horror...
Quote from: TFFLoHA, Chapter 26
And it was in this spirit that Victor Hoeness was tracked down in the city of Linz, aged eleven years old, where he was already preparing for another stab at changing the nature of the universe. He was taken from his home and tortured for eleven days. On the twelfth he broke and confessed to his true place of birth, parents, home, point of origin.
Quote from: TFFLoHA, Chapter 26
They imprisoned him, not merely away from society but in complete physical immobility, in a crude medieval straitjacket entirely made of metal. They cut out his tongue, cut off his ears, pulled out his eyes, and when he had recovered from all of those, they cut off his hands and his feet as well, just to guarantee that he wasn't going anywhere. Then they force-fed him down a hollow wooden rod rammed into his throat, keeping him alive in his own silent, wordless, blind madness. They managed to do this for nine years before finally he choked to death, and died, they said, smiling. He was twenty years old.
Quote from: TFFLoHA, Chapter 26
Born again where he had begun, the baby Victor Hoeness was at birth snatched from his crib and taken again to a place of imprisonment. By the age of four he'd reached consciousness and, examining him, the members of the Cronus Club concluded there was still enough of his mind left alive that he could be judged responsible for his acts. So it began again: eyes, ears, tongue, hands, feet, all with careful medical precision to ensure that he didn't die in the process, but all, of course, without painkillers. This time they managed to keep him alive for seven years; he died aged eleven.
Quote from: TFFLoHA, Chapter 26
Nevertheless they persisted, and once again examined Hoeness for signs of his old self. This time, however, the baby Hoeness, though born with perfectly functional hands and ears and eyes, seemed incapable of using any of them, though the apparatuses were entirely there.
So, after two lives in which he was tortured, Victor lost his vision, hearing and the use of his hands and feet completely. One wonders whether he'd have recovered if he had been left alone and had not been tortured for a few more lives afterwards. But it's possible he wouldn't, which means that this could happen to any of the others, and not necessarily involving torture. For example, Harry already died of cancer several times, how would dying of radiation poisoning affect his following lives? Would he get cancer earlier and earlier in his following lives? Or is that danger averted because he only died that way once? I could see many possibilities involving damage and injuries carrying over from previous lives... Kalachakras ought to be careful and avoid having certain things happen to them in two consecutive lives, or else it seems likely they could end up in a situation similar to Victor's.
"But you’ve simply made the discovery that Thelli made—only without the benefit of her unerring sense of fashion."
-Anasűrimbor Kayűtas (The Great Ordeal, chapter 13)

"You prefer to believe women victims to their passions, but we can be at least as calculating as you. Love does not make us weak, but strong."
-Ykoriana of the Masks (The Third God, chapter 27)