By: Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
Release Date: July 16, 2019
Publisher: Saga Press
Award: Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novella (2020), Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novella (2019), British Science Fiction Association Award Nominee for Best Shorter Fiction (2019), Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Speculative Fiction (Ray Bradbury Prize) (2020), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Science Fiction (2019) Reddit r/fantasy Stabby Award for Best Novella (2019)
If you like time travel, romance, and epistolary style novels look no further. This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone is an utterly fantastic novel and so very deserving of the many award nominations it’s been nominated for recently – including a Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novella (2019), British Science Fiction Association Award Nominee for Best Shorter Fiction (2019), and Ray Bradbury Prize (2020).
This novella tells the story of two people, Red and Blue. These are two agents on opposing forces of a time war, jumping from one timeline to another, changing events for the benefit of their side. Then, they begin leaving letters for one another. Across time and space, they realize they have more in common with one another and more to admire in one another than two opposing agents may first imagine.
As the letters continue, Red and Blue turn from enemies to two people who understand one another, having gone through so many similar circumstances. Then, they fall in love. Of course, being on opposite sides of a time/space war makes things a bit complicated.
The war itself is largely seen through the lens of these characters through their letters. This provides an interesting perspective. While this could easily mean the world and circumstances aren’t spoken about, it’s never the case. The world is fully realized. Circumstances feel bigger than these two characters, events manipulating them, sometimes in baffling and unfair ways. The two factions, Commandant and Garden, are diametrically opposed. However, they can feel so very similar at the same time.
The prose is beautiful and lyrical. The letters from one character to another are told with such incredible feeling, with two people bearing their hopes, dreams, and souls to one another. I listened to this as an audiobook, and highly recommend it. Cynthia Farrell and Emily Woo Zeller were amazing voice acting Red and Blue.
I would absolutely recommend reading (or listening!) to This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Will this iconic duo write anything else together in the future? If they do, I will certainly be first in line to pick it up.