Book Review Time: This Is How You Lose the Time War

Dear Fellow Bibliophiles,

I am writing this letter to inform you of my most recent reading experience. The book is called This Is How You Lose the Time War. Its co-writers are Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. The story is a literary tango of sorts; the dancers, Red and Blue. On the battlefield of competing interests, Red and Blue, find themselves on opposing sides. Red fights for a utopian technocratic mega-entity called, The Agency. While Blue’s allegiance lies with an earthy, organic super consciousness known as, The Garden. These soldier-spies excel at what they do; stealthily moving through time and space, affecting the course of history, usually by the deadliest of means. Red and Blue are constantly at each other’s heels. One enters a time strand, just as the other has left it. They never question why they are at war. Victory over the other is all that matters. So, when they strike up a correspondence through letters, it’s no surprise that they would initially use the format to deliver boastful jabs. Cleverly crafting comical checkmates created from words. But as they continue their individual missions, their relationship grows. They wonder about each other and delight in the secret association they have formed. Their letters take on a lyricism and poetry that foreshadows passionate love.

This Is How You Lose the Time War is described as a time travel, fantasy, love story. Such a description, put me on guard. There’s a lot that can go wrong with that combination: a high level of sappiness, convoluted plot developments, and dissatisfying conclusions. But everything, and I mean, literally, everything about this book is…right. The love story is at the forefront. And the letters are the hook. We live in such a fast-paced moment. We want our information quick (and we don’t check for accuracy). We shoot off mindless texts. And barely register the responses. But letter writing has become a lost art. The care and deliberation it takes to construct a good letter. The intimacy of its address to one, and only one. The recipient reads the letter again and again, its essence impressed upon their very being. 

Red and Blue are a part of two enormously powerful collectives. Their lives are controlled; their bodies, cogs in a wheel. But through their love for each other, made tangible in their letters, they’re able to possess something pure, unadulterated, and exclusively their’s.

For your consideration, I offer This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.

I hope this letter finds you well. Until next time…

Best wishes and happy reading,


5 thoughts on “Book Review Time: This Is How You Lose the Time War

    1. It really is. It’s touchingly biterrsweet, while also gliding along this razor’s edge. Pure but dangerous. Sensory and visceral. A love story with teeth. And it doesn’t underestimate the intelligence of its readers.

    1. Although, now that you’ve brought it up, the writers may have had that in mind. The story doesn’t delve deep into each entities’ (The Agency and The Garden) specific motivations. The end-game, I assume, is world domination. But what that would look like or mean, is never specified. I think you may be onto some thing Pam Webb. Thank you.

Would love to hear what you think, leave a reply

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