Thursday, December 17, 2020

Review: THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone


Rating: 3.5/5 stars

This Is How You Lose the Time War has jumped up to the top of my list recently as I’m trying to read more sci-fi stories and this novella is only 198 pages with super short chapters. I could have finished it in a single sitting if I wanted to had I not been busy with life responsibilities.

I honestly had no idea what was going on during the entire story, but I was compelled enough to keep turning the pages one after the other until the end. The writing was gorgeous and poetic. And oh my heart, that ending.

This story follows two individuals, Blue and Red, who are on opposite sides of a war across time. They leave letters for each other in different locations on different strands of time, not knowing if the other will ever find them or not. At first, they are enemies, and their letters tease and taunt. But eventually, you can see them becoming friends and looking forward to the consistency and comfort of each other’s letters in an ever-changing world. And eventually still, you can see them finding solace in the other and falling in love, despite them still technically being enemies. They become star-crossed lovers, so to speak, yearning for what they can never have.

The idea of enemies falling in love through letters exchanged across space and time really appealed to me. This book was confusing and weird but I also liked it. I still don’t even know if both Red and Blue are human though? I think yes but also maybe no? There is virtually no world-building or plot or details about the futuristic technology or the shadows that keep following them or really about anything. We don’t even know why they are fighting the war or what it’s about. And there’s only minimal character development to the point that I kept getting Red and Blue confused with each other. The book isn’t quite what I expected it to be, but I also still liked it.

Red and Blue communicate via steganography, or the practice of concealing secret messages within other messages or objects. That part was really cool, but I didn’t even realize what they were doing until over halfway into the book. A whole message would be concealed in a berry or in a bee sting; it was pretty wild and it took me a minute to wrap my head around it because I think it’s slightly beyond the bounds of current technology so my dumb brain just wasn’t getting it.

This Is How You Lose the Time War was a weird but clever novella that I couldn’t stop reading. I suspect it will take me a few rereadings to fully grasp the story and the world, but luckily this is a book I plan to return to in the future because it seems like the kind of book that will evoke new meaning with each reading. I’ve never heard of either of these authors before reading this novella, but now I’m interested in checking out some of their solo works. 

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