Friday, December 20, 2019

This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Rating: ★★★+.5 | 201 pages | Saga Press | Adult Science Fiction | 7/16/2019
In recent years I’ve been picking up more adult sci-fi. I’ve seen This Is How You Lose The Time War all over the bookternet. The idea of two soldiers on opposite sides of war falling in love intrigued me and when I saw this on the shelf at my library I picked it up.

I’m going to steal the character descriptions from the book jacket because it’s kind of hard for me to describe them. Our two soldiers are Red, who belongs to the Agency, a post-singularity technotopia; and Blue who belongs to Garden, a vast consciousness embedded in all organic material.

The two soldiers exist in the far future and travel up and down the braid of time to sway past events to win the war. They’ve only caught glimpses of each other over the long years of the war, but when Blue leaves a message for Red they start a relationship that could put them both in danger.

I found the story and concept captivating and imaginative. This is a majority epistolatory novel(lla?) and all the ways El-Mohtar and Gladstone create for Red and Blue to send secret letters are so inventive. But I’ll be honest, I had a tough time reading this book. The language is very literary in a way I’m not used to so I was constantly re-reading paragraphs to unlock the meanings. I think this is book that definitely holds up to re-reads and examination

I did part of it on audio and the narrators Cynthia Ferrell and Emily Woo Zeller sounded so similar that I couldn’t always tell whose “voice” was reading the letters and it kept throwing me off. I didn’t feel like they brought anything to the performances and I almost think this works better not on audio.

El-Mohtar and Gladstone have cooked up a fascinating, creative story about love, war, and fate.

In some ways, this book felt like a much more modern send-up of Good Omens, another book penned by a SFF writing duo about two beings on opposite sides of war to control the future. Except in this book the same gendered characters get a romantic relationship.

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