This Is How You Lose the Time War
|Author||Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone|
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster|
As agents Red and Blue travel back and forth through time, altering the history of multiple universes on behalf of their warring empires, they leave each other secret messages... and gradually fall in love.
Publishers Weekly called This Is How You Lose the Time War "exquisitely crafted" and "dazzling", with "increasingly intricate wordplay", and stated that it "warrants multiple readings". National Public Radio's Jason Sheehan compared it to The Lake House (if one "strapped [The Lake House] up in body armor, covered it with razors, dipped it in poison and set it loose to murder and burn its way across worlds and centuries"), and said that the book makes a virtue of what he felt to be the characteristic weaknesses of both the time travel genre and the epistolary format.
Cheryl Morgan argued that its central message — "soldiers on either side of a war often have far more in common with each other than they do with the people who sit safely at home and issue orders" — is one "that the world needs to hear". Tor.com's Lee Mandelo considered the book to have "a poetic internal structure", with prose that is "sharp, almost crisp" rather than "lush", and a "focus (...) on the personal as opposed to the global"; Mandelo also observed that it "has an argument to make—several, actually—about conflict, love, and resistance", and treats the time war as "an object lesson, a conceit, the unending and reason-less conflict that consumes generations, centuries, now and forever." Den of Geek's Natalie Zutter praised the novel's approach to gender identity: Red and Blue "both use she/her pronouns, but neither fits the heteronormative mold of femininity", with each "perform(ing) gender in a dozen different ways", such that "(t)he more that (they) appear in different forms, the less their gender actually matters."
At Strange Horizons, Adri Joy noted that "the Time War itself (...) is largely incomprehensible beyond its most basic points", faulting the novel for its paucity of "direct tension" and lack of "coherent picture", and for its "poetic obfuscation" which was "hard to understand" and not "relevant to the story being told here"; however, Joy nonetheless lauded the novel as "an absolute emotional masterpiece, sending readers on a gut-wrenching feelings rollercoaster of the highest calibre." Black Gate found it to be neither "a riddle to parse" nor "a tangled, hard sci-fi puzzle-box of time travel to unravel", with its final revelation being "fairly obvious from the first chapter", but emphasized that the revelation in question was nonetheless "quite emotionally fulfilling", ultimately concluding that "it's fun to watch goddesses fall in love (...) and Blue and Red feel very much human."
Red's letters were written entirely by Gladstone, and Blue's by El-Mohtar; although they wrote a general outline beforehand, "the reactions of each character were developed with a genuine element of surprise on receiving each letter, and the scenes accompanying [the letters] were written using that emotional response".
El-Mohtar announced in 2019 that the book has been optioned for television, with scripts to be written by herself and Gladstone; she also specified that the genders of the characters "are not up for negotiation".
- This Is How You Lose the Time War, reviewed at Publishers Weekly; published March 14, 2019; retrieved October 27, 2019
- Letters Serve To Bond Time-Traveling Rivals In 'This Is How You Lose The Time War', by Jason Sheehan, at National Public Radio; published July 18, 2019; retrieved October 27, 2019
- This is How You Lose the Time War, by Cheryl Morgan, at Cheryl-Morgan.com; retrieved October 27, 2019
- To Encourage Reach Exceeding Grasp: This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, by Lee Mandelo], at Tor.com; published July 16, 2019; retrieved October 27, 2019
- This Is How You Lose the Time War Solves the Time Traveler’s Wife Problem, by Natalie Zutter, at Den of Geek; published July 15, 2019; retrieved October 27, 2019
- THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR BY MAX GLADSTONE AND AMAL EL-MOHTAR, reviewed by Adri Joy, at Strange Horizons; published September 9, 2019; retrieved October 27, 2019
- This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone, reviewed by Steve Case, at Black Gate; published July 14, 2019; retrieved October 27, 2019