Monday, July 15, 2019

This Is How You Lose the Time War

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Gallery/Saga Press; 7/16/19
eBook review copy; 208 pages
ISBN-13: 9781534431003

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone is a highly recommended epistolary science fiction story.

Red and Blue are rival time traveling special agents from two vastly different cultures/races that are at war. Red is part of the Agency, working for the Commandant, and represents a technological-based manufactured race of AI, while Blue is part of the Garden and represents a biological/organic race of intertwined mass consciousness. They both travel up, down, and along different of time strands to make sure their culture succeeds and flourishes in the future, winning the war.
When Blue leaves a letter for Red on a bloody battlefield of a dying world, what began as a taunt evolves into a friendship and later a romance through letters. The letter read: Burn before reading. Red reads the letter and writes one of her own, leaving it where Blue will find it on one of her assignments. The two proceed to exchange letters in hidden, inventive, creative, unique and unexpected ways across timelines in the future and past. Any discovery of their exchange would mean death for both women.
The narrative alternates between following Red and Blue on their missions and with the letters sent to each other in-between descriptions of their current objective. The two travel across history and the future, both with multiple realities of each time period. This abbreviated novel is composed of expertly crafted exchanges using poetic language. Their romance is one of ideas, thoughts, and emotions, not physical, because they are from such different species.
The strength and the challenge of this novel is in the language because the prose is so poetic, full of metaphors and similes. The world building is there, but vague enough that it might be irksome to many science fiction fans. The focus is not the worlds they are from or how the war between the different future races evolved. Instead the prose covers basically the missions they are on, with the heart of the novel focusing on the burgeoning relationship between these two very different special agents.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Gallery/Saga Press.

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