This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Published by Saga Press
Adult, Science Fiction
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Release Date : July 16th 2019
Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandment finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.
Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, becomes something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.
Except the discovery of their bond would mean the death of each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win. That’s how war works, right?
Cowritten by two beloved and award-winning sci-fi writers, This Is How You Lose the Time War is an epic love story spanning time and space.
“At the end as at the start, and through all the in-betweens, I love you.”
This Is How You Lose the Time War is a book that is deserving of it’s title as the Best Novella of 2019.
It is wonderful and rare experience to read a book that radiates such brilliance in every word, every passage, and with the flip of each page. I devoured this book or did it devour me? When was the last time I felt this rush of serotonin? I surely don’t remember because this book pulled me into a comatose state as I am immersed fully into braids of Red and Blue.
It’s a great start to my year to feel the breathless yearning and hardcore pining of an epic love story with such palpable and evocative emotion as beautifully written as This Is How You Lose the Time War. The many awards that Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone won for this masterpiece are all well deserved victories.
For those who don’t know This Is How You Lose the Time War won a BSFA Award for Best Shorter Fiction, won the Nebula Award for Best Novella in 2019, won the 2020 Locus Award for Best Novella, won the 2020 Hugo Award for Best Novella, won the 2020 Prix Aurora Award for Short Fiction, and was nominated for many other awards, just to name a few.
This Is How You Lose the Time War literally swept the best novella and short fiction category during that award season. I’ve seen many reactions from friends varying from the ‘confused but vibing’ to the ‘destroyed emotionally inside and out’. For a book to give such reactions I had high expectations especially with a belt of awards strapped to it’s title.
After I read a few of chapters I quickly came to the understanding that this book will wreck me and I will automatically give it 5 stars by the time I finish it. Don’t let its short length fool you! This book is a heavy weight that packs a punch.
“Tell me something true, or tell me nothing at all.”
This Is How You Lose the Time War is a science fiction novella written in two point of views—Red and Blue—on two opposing sides of a war across the threads of time. Red’s point of view is written by Max Gladstone and Blue’s point of view is written by Amal El-Mohtar.
Red and Blue are both agents of warfare that has chased each other through the braids of time undoing and sabotaging each other’s attempts to turn the tides to their respective factions’ advantage that will lead to winning the war. It started with a letter left to taunt which sparks to the challenge of a dare dangling baits that can undo each other through exposure and suspicions of treason. Their correspondence continues tethering on edge that if discovered is punishable by death.
The story is written back and forth switching from Red to Blue and vice versa throughout the story. This Is How You Lose the Time War is unlike any book I have ever read before in my lifetime. This unique way of story telling allows a natural growth to the plot and development of it’s characters. It also easily emphasizes on the distinct personalities and voices of the main characters unlike a story that is written by one author.
I am impressed that the pacing kept it’s gradual incline that climaxed wonderfully in a very explosive and meaningful manner. The shift in perspectives is smoothly done as well and wasn’t at all close to a whiplash. The world itself serves as a background and a tool for the characters to propel the story forward. The descriptions is vivid and sensory pleasing for the imagination that is filled with rich important details that ended up being a key that ties the story together.
“I want to meet you in every place I ever loved. Listen to me. I am your echo. I would rather break the world than lose you.”
The core of the story are the characters, Red and Blue. Their relationship started as them being rivals on opposing sides that out maneuvered and one-upped each other at every chance they get. Their orbits gradually gets tighter and tighter as they close in on each other which exploded as the story reaches it’s climax.
Red and Blue admired and respected each other that developed into a strong loving bond fueled by trust and vulnerability. They know they are fighting against each other but they defied from their expected roles to dream a life together on the same side. Their bond is electric and palpable to the senses that readers could just feel the tension between them in the environment they occupied and occupying.
For most part of the story Red and Blue are never in the same space. The only time readers can manifest their union is in their letters addressed to each other. The mutual pining and teasing from afar is felt as their emotion bled through the words they shared in the messages that took on many forms.
Their correspondence is intoxicatingly sweet with yearning that it just buzzed me from start to finish. It added an addictive aspect that made it harder for me to put the book down. I gutted myself for putting it down for a day because all I wanted is to be with Red and Blue to witness the ending to their story.
“I love you. I love you. I love you. I’ll write it in waves. In skies. In my heart. You’ll never see, but you will know. I’ll be all the poets, I’ll kill them all and take each one’s place in turn, and every time love’s written in all the strands it will be to you.”
I will keep this review short or else I might ramble with no end and fill this review with spoilers (which can ruin the whole experience of reading this book).
Final thoughts, This Is How You Lose the Time War is a novella that I will proudly dub as a masterpiece in science fiction that is modern in its story telling, vivid in imagery, and electrifying character dynamics. I will never stop thinking about this book as it will linger and burry itself in my subconscious for a very long time.
I highly recommend to EVERYONE I know to pick up this book and thank me later. If sci-fi isn’t your thing and you’re more on the literary fiction side, no problem! Because this book reads like literary fiction so for fuck sake better pick it up and read it!
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Thank you for reading!
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Beautiful review Lia!!! I don’t think I was even able to articulate my thoughts when I read it two years ago.. it’s just such a masterpiece.. I should probably do a reread 😊😊
Maddie @ Inking & Thinking
Lovely review! I have this on my TBR and need to read it!! I’m definitely have to read this one next!
This was a great review and I’m glad you loved the book so much. I think, starting the book, I was too much in my head, because I knew the words on the page, but they didn’t make any sense in that constellation and that frustrated me. BUT it was a beautiful book and I got emotionally invested, especially in the later part.