This week’s book is This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Here is the link to it. It is a story about two soldiers on either side of a time war who write letters back and forth to one another and who end up falling in love. It has probably become my most recommended book in the last year or so, partly because it is very easy to get people interested. It turns out, wanting to read an epistolary romance between soldiers on different sides of a time war is something that unites a surprisingly large number of people.
I actually read This Is How You Lose the Time War, last year just before I went to the WorldCon in Dublin. Or at least I got most of the way through and ended up having to leave my copy at home because my weight allowance was already on the risky side. But I finished it when I got back! And I could have left it out of my reading pile for this year, but I knew it would be a book that would treat being reread well. Having read it once before you pick up nuances in the story that you don’t the first time out. You read it the first time and you see the story playing out in one way, you read it a second time and suddenly there are deeper meanings to passages.
This is a book that is more rewarding to read a second time than it is a first, which is saying something considering how much I enjoyed reading it the first time.
I love the different points of view that it gives you to mull over. I think this is a wonderful book for anyone who wants to read point of view heavy books for craft use, it’s both inspirational and informative. I think I have picked up a few ways of introducing more distinct personalities and narrative styles to my own work from reading it.
It’s also just a blooming beautiful book to read. Science Fiction as a genre is not known for books where the reader is encouraged to dwell in the moment and enjoy the description, and I’m probably being unfair by saying that, so let me be more precise. I haven’t heard about Science Fiction being a genre where you can read about a beautiful landscape for a few pages. Or about the inner workings of someone’s mind and how they feel. It does happen, but it’s generally one or two scenes in a book. This is an entire book built out of stunning setting descriptions, and deep introspective looks from the characters at their own lives and choices.
And I love it. It feels like a comfortable book to spend time with. It feels like a pleasant pause. One of those moments in a high drama story where the characters kick off their shoes and drink coffee and try to come to terms with what the hell has just happened.
Also, I have never read another book that is good and yet calls out to be fanficced so much. Really! I mean I’ve read books where it feels like the story was missing out on something and I’ve gone, hmmm, might see if this has a fix-it fic or two on Archive Of Our Own. But this is a book which offers up settings and characters, places and worlds, entire realities, multiple ones, that make me want to read more. I want to know more about the version of Genghis Khan who used steam-powered war machines. I want to read about the English Regency settings filled with time travellers who visit for tea.
I just really love how generous this book is with the sheer amount of ideas it brings up in me. Has this been the same for anyone else? I want to know what other people who have read this feel about that, does it inspire you? Leave a comment, please, I would love to hear from you.
The love story itself is also incredibly touching, these two people are broken in ways that separate them both from ordinary people and from their own societies. They are from different and hard to understand worlds, and yet they find themselves different and hard to understand as well. I love that. So many of the questions they ask each other in their letters are illuminating about their own societies, their own places and lives in those societies. They show how these two sides can fight each other for an impossible to understand the length of time, a length of time that is outside of time and which pushes and bullies reality into new shapes, and yet because they are enemies they know next to nothing about each other.
But, I don’t want to make you think that this is a book without some serious risky, heart in your mouth moments. Because so much of is written in letters you kind of get lulled into a sense of security. If there’s a letter then the person has to have been around to write the letter and so things can’t have turned out too badly. The classic first-person issue with writing thrillers.
This Is How You Lose The Time War beats that by not only having sections from a third-person point of view, but also from mysterious points of view. The reader isn’t certain who they are and so that adds a bit of worry and potential to the threat level. Also, it’s a story about alternate realities and time travel, so like, worrying about a character writing a letter when they’ve died isn’t that far fetched an idea. Honestly, this is one of the genres where it would make complete sense.
As it is, that isn’t what happens. Not exactly, anyway.
I don’t want to spoil anyone who hasn’t read the book, so I’m going to leave it at that. I found this book fascinating and I greatly enjoyed it, I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of time travelling love stories and alternate reality wars, and any blend of those two ideas that you can come up with.
Here’s the link once more to where you can pick it up from Amazon, though if you have a nearby indie bookshop that you can order it through that should be where your priority lies, obviously. Unfortunately, I know that for a lot of people that isn’t an option at the moment, but as they say, every little helps so maybe check to see if there is a book shop near you that is shipping books?
If not, well, eBooks are always an option and in a time where you can’t leave the house to go book shopping, it is pretty handy.
Next up will be The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman, which is another time travelly book, only this time with assassin librarians. I think. I haven’t started it yet, so I will get back to you on that one. Here is the link to the schedule if you want to see what else I will be reading.
So far the plan is for;
- The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman. That will be a two-part review because it is quite long.
- Next will be Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsin Muir, another two-parter.
- And then, for the final two-parter, I’ll be reading The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch.
After that, I need to decide on some new books to add to the list, especially if I end up reading faster than I am planning, which is very possible!
But I have a lot of books to read in my To Be Read pile so it shouldn’t be difficult to come up with a few.
See you next time!