This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone is the story of Red and Blue. Red is a time-traveling agent in service to the Agency, a distant future society of highly advanced technology. Blue is a time-traveling agent in service to the Garden, a distant future society where everything is grown rather than built. Their existences are mutually exclusive, and both societies are constantly sending agents up and down the braids of time to ensure that one will come to pass and the other will disappear from the multiverse altogether.
Red and Blue are the best at what they do and cannot resist taunting each other through messages only someone with their own level of skill would be able to detect, let alone read, in tree rings and tea and sumac seeds and more. As the exchange continues, both cannot help but admire the skill and the mind behind that skill. In time, swift to the reader but centuries-long to the agents, admiration becomes affection becomes consuming love. They begin to wonder. Is there some point in infinity that they can be together?
The novel is told in a series of brief moments from missions punctuated by Red and Blue’s letters to each other. Each mission’s telling is highly imaginative and evocative, worthy of a full tale of its own. Perhaps, though, the emotions that the story hangs on would have lost some of the forward momentum that propels the novel, as it exists here, if more space had been given to the missions. Pick up this one if you want to lose yourself to a fast-paced read of high emotion or if you want to experience some beautifully lyrical sci-fi.
- Catherine, Cataloging Associate