I read This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, in one sitting, broken up only by pausing to yell about it on Twitter. I’m going to need at least a month to recover from this book, which means that by the time it comes out, I might be able to talk about it without gasping and clutching my heart melodramatically. I’m reeling and I couldn’t breathe after I finished it. This goes way beyond beautiful; it’s one of those books that reminds me that writing is also an art form.
This Is How You Lose the Time War is a slim book, but it packs a punch. It’s a romance between two time travelers: Red, an agent of a technology-soaked future who is tasked with making sure that future comes to pass by tweaking the past, and Blue, part of an organic semi-hive mind called the Garden who is trying to stop Red’s agency. They often thwart each other’s carefully laid plans in the field and when Blue leaves Red a letter, they being a correspondence that will have them turning from enemies to lovers in a beautiful twist of fate.
It is a 200-page prose poem, an epistolary masterpiece, a masterclass in allusion, a deep dive into character, a perfect manipulation of form and syntax and tone, a bending of the genre to create something that is intrinsically science-fiction and yet absolutely, gorgeously unique. It’s a Shakespearean sonnet, a John Keats love-letter, a Seamus Heaney translation. It’s ancient and new, twisted and twined, harsh and jagged and soft all at once, romantic and Romantic. It’s art.
I cried so hard, my roommate asked me if I was okay, and I had to tell her no. I’m not okay, but it’s in the best possible way.
When I reread this book and underline all of the phrases that are my favorite phrases, I’m going to underline the whole book. When I reread this book and write down every allusion from “my regards to the vast and trunkless legs” all the way to “while Blake scribbles apocalypses upstairs,” I will fill a notebook full of English-major nonsense and present it to my favorite college professor as a teaching tool in how to recognize the classics and bend them into something you can use in a book about time travel romance. When I reread this book tomorrow, next week, next month, repeatedly over and over because I’ve lost the ability to read anything else, I honestly won’t mind. This book stunned me, and I’m content to claim that it’s perfect and know that I’m right.
Read this work of art. I can’t explain to you how much you won’t regret it.
You can pre-order This Is How You Lose the Time War online or call the store to place an order!