Claire North is a master at turning a simple “what if” question into a rich, complex story that explores every facet of the foundational concept. In this book, that question is “what if some people lived their lives over and over again?” How would such a life affect a person? How would these people find each other; how would this affect history and the world at large; what kind of culture might exist among this population?
The result of this exploration is a tangled mass of timelines, centuries-long exercises in subterfuge, and an impending apocalypse that creeps inevitably closer with each cycle. Harry August is special even among his own kind, retaining a greater precision of memory across all of his life spans. As he comes to terms with his strange fate and learns the way of the Ouroboran, the people whose lives begin again at the end, he begins to see disturbing patterns emerging from one life to the next. Ouroboran go missing or lose their memories, technology progresses more quickly than it should, and the rumors from the distant future grow increasingly dire as something- or someone- continues to hasten the end of everything.
While I didn’t find Harry himself to be the most compelling character, I still spent much of this book on the edge of my seat. In many ways, this book is a deliciously drawn-out spy thriller set against the backdrop of the entire 20th century. It has all the intelligence and intrigue of a Robert Ludlum novel, but with a sci-fi twist that adds entirely new layers of complexity. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys intricately plotted political thrillers and/or highly conceptual science fiction.