This Is How You Lose the Time War

paperback, 224 pages

Published March 17, 2020 by Gallery / Saga Press.

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4 stars (20 reviews)

Two time-traveling agents from warring futures, working their way through the past, begin to exchange letters—and fall in love in this thrilling and romantic book from award-winning authors Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.

In the ashes of a dying world, Red finds a letter marked “Burn before reading. Signed, Blue.”

So begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents in a war that stretches through the vast reaches of time and space.

Red belongs to the Agency, a post-singularity technotopia. Blue belongs to Garden, a single vast consciousness embedded in all organic matter. Their pasts are bloody and their futures mutually exclusive. They have nothing in common—save that they’re the best, and they’re alone.

Now what began as a battlefield boast grows into a dangerous game, one both Red and Blue are determined to win. Because winning’s what you do in war. Isn’t it?

A tour de force collaboration from …

6 editions

Bigolas Dickolas was right

5 stars

Beautiful novella! A lot of it is very abstract, on purpose. Like, how unlikely is it that two agents from rivaling parties both name themselves after colours, Blue and Red? It doesn't matter. Neither do the specific missions. The war events. The time strands.

What does matter, are the letters they send each other. The Seeker following them everywhere, snorting teapots like cocaine. And how they lose and win the time war.

Bonus points for the writing method (the two authors wrote the letters to each other, one after another, and built the universe that way). Bonus points for wlw romance. Bonus points for singing Steven Universe songs while writing the book. Bonus points for posing with swords on the backcover photo.

Either too short, or too long.

No rating

I can't decide if this would have worked better (for me) as a short story, or a full length book. If it was longer, it could have expanded on it's ideas. If it had been shorter, it wouldn't have felt so repetetive.

There is some good ideas here, but they deserve better than being hand waved away. How do Red and Blue target their letters to each other across strands of time? If there are certain contested junctures in time, shouldn't they be swarmed with agents, and multiple aspects of the same agents? If the protagonists are just cogs in two massive opposing machines battling for supremacy over all time - why does it seems like they are the only two operators in the field?

I'm not saying this is a bad book, there is a lot good writing here. But it didn't work for me. Two highly subjective stars. …

a teapot in a tempest

5 stars

"This is How You Lose the Time War" asks the reader to perch on the shoulders of two operatives on opposing sides of a time-traveling war.

Each chapter follows "Red" or "Blue" as they scurry up and down timelines and across dimensions. The book is both sweepingly broad and extremely contained and personal.

The settings flit by, dizzying: a temple for mechanized humans, an ancient holy cave, the assassination of Caesar - each sketched with broad, emotional strokes to give the setting an aesthetic. One gets the sense that a great web of cause and effect is being constantly constructed, altered, and destroyed, without ever seeing the full picture.

Against these backdrops, the characters "Red" and "Blue" write to each other - as nemeses, then as friends, ever deeper entangled even as they demolish each other's plans and forces. The letters make up an enormous part of the experience, and …

Review of 'This Is How You Lose the Time War' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

I've had this sitting on my Kindle for a while, but I'm glad I waited in a way as it was the perfect choice for my last book of the year. Somewhere between a simple love story (but see Blue's thoughts on Romeo and Juliet) and the saving of the entire universe, it fits so much in such a small space and creates so many thoughts and images. A wonderful book, heartily recommended.

Review of 'This Is How You Lose the Time War' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

This is probably someone's favourite book of the year. It's not mine - it's pretty far from the kind of stuff I usually love - and I was still really impressed and moved.

A love story with a backdrop of a paradimensional war, with the focus on beautiful writing and all the worldbuilding strictly as an afterthought. This is a novel that knows exactly what it wants to be and succeeds in that admirably. There's nothing superfluous here, only beautiful prose and a story that cannot but end tragically. Maybe.

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rated it

3 stars
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rated it

3 stars