I was intimidated by this book, which feels like a strange thing to say about a book that measures no more than 7 inches tall and less than 200 pages. But I was. A book that inspires so many positive, nay gushing, reviews that also seems to leave the reviewer at a loss for how to describe the book (see please reviews by Aquillia, andtheIToldYouSos, carriejay, and emmalita as a place to start) had me putting it on and taking it off my to read list several times. Then Joanna Robinson did an interview with one half of the author team, Amal El-Mohtar, on the Still Watching: Loki podcast to talk about time travel stories and constructing multiverses and I could no longer pretend that I wasn’t very, very interested in what this little book contained.
It contains, as one might say, multitudes.
It’s a time travel story, it’s a love story, it’s a spy thriller, it’s a work of suspense, it’s a post-apocalyptic story, and its an epistolary novel. This is How You Lose the Time War is the story of an unlikely correspondence between two rivals, known as Red and Blue, intent on securing the future for their warring factions. What begins as a show of respect and one upmanship grows into something romantic which if discovered could be the end of both. Something that could change the past and the future. And after all, someone has to win the war.
While Red and Blue hop through strands of history doing their work and undoing each other’s we the reader are treated to the beauty of the language they use in their communications (and oh how varied and special their methods of delivery) and the emotions that language represents. There’s a savagery to their imagery, a hunger, and it pulls you right in. Details aren’t wasted in the prose, which honestly almost kept this a four-star book, not five, because the things that aren’t explained and instead only hinted at often left me scratching my head initially. But then I learned to love that confused feeling in my brain, the feeling that the book was smarter than me, but not in a way designed to make me feel poorly.
This book has landed a lot of awards (Hugo Award for Best Novella 2020, Nebula Award for Best Novella 2019, Locus Award for Best Novella 2020, and the British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Shorter Fiction 2019), and I can easily see why. I’ve already informed Ale that this book is being passed off to her next since I have time left on my library renewal, its just that kind of book. You want to find it its next reader.
Bingo Square: Rec’d