This is How You Lose the Time War. It sounds so intriguing, and I’d heard great things of it. And of course, I had to add it to my list for the Spacetime reading challenge!
This is How You Lose the Time War
by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.
Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war.
It’s an intriguing blurb. I was intrigued. I started reading, and was… intrigued but baffled. Someone or thing, because it seems to be a super autonomous highly advanced technological being, is reading a message, sent to it in the past. Then we shift to the message sender, who is in some other timeline entirely, and taunting her opponent in the time war. She (also an advanced being) is determined to win. The entities are named Red and Blue. They develop the relationship through letters that jump through time and space, into the oddest of locations, in the most obscure formats.
I am vaguely reminded of a book from a few years back with a cover resembling a shark. This is not a good memory.
I struggle with this book. I find no sympathy with the characters, no appreciation of the plot if there is one. The technology is more technobabble than I appreciate. I leave it aside several times to come back to, but it seems to make no difference. Eventually the relationship develops between the two to a point were they are emotionally involved, but still through the messages, which continue to take forms that are unknowable to you and me. Coded in the blood of a walrus, for example.
I come to the conclusion that this book is not for me. Maybe I’m just not clever enough to follow it. I mean, the authors are professors of creative writing… and the acknowledgements clarify for me that they probably wrote one character each, which explains a lot.
I gave it three stars, because it’s obviously very clever. But enjoyable? Not for me.