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“This is How You Lose the Time War” By Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

--Staff Picks

This is How You Lose the Time War

Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Published: 2019
Age Range: Adult
Genre: Sci-Fi
Awards: BSFA Award for Best Shorter Fiction, Nebula Award for Best Novella 2019, and Hugo Award for Best Novella 2020

The past melds with the future in this beautifully spun tale of love and war between the forces of nature and technology. What starts as a game of one-upmanship on the battlefield turns into a forbidden epistolary romance through the ages. Following Red and Blue, two elite agents from warring factions vying for control of the future, “This is How You Lose the Time War” leads us through the development of their relationship as they leave letters for each other hidden in the details of various timelines and slowly uncover secrets about both their opposing worlds and themselves.

This book was not at all what I was expecting, in the best ways possible. The relationship between the two main characters is so interesting, and helps to unravel the various mysteries scattered throughout the story. Red’s snarky enthusiasm for learning about the world outside of the hive mind she lives in mixed with Blue’s short and sweet, yet philosophical perspectives on life from Garden leads to a wonderfully developed tale about both their own entanglements and willingness to risk everything for each other as well as the strange universe they inhabit. I especially loved how they described time travel, moving up and down thread and viewing time as a braided amalgamation of small details and choices that could make or break the plans of either faction.