Books & Dopamine

'This is How You Lose the Time War' Is an Abstract Love Poem

Cover of the book This is How You Lose the Time War

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone is a book I wasn't expecting to love. I'm someone who can get confused when writing isn't straightforward. But this. This book is exquisitely abstract. It had me smiling through most it and threatened tears at times.

The story follows the evolution of a relationship and forbidden love between two pen pals traveling throughout time and alternate timelines as spies for opposite sides. Although the authors create a silhouette of the chaotic world worlds the two protagonists (Blue and Red) are a part of, the story is about Blue and Red. It's about their inner worlds and their yearning for one another more than it is about the outer world.

Poetry in motion I love how fluid and lyrical the prose is. The words paint a vivid image for the mind and the senses. At times I paused to savor sentences, not wanting to let them go.
Small rocks taste of the river, of rubbed fish scale, of glaciers long gone. They crunch, crisp, celery-like.
Drawing of a gray fish in front of a gray river rock with a watery blue background

Much of the story is told through letters that Blue and Red write to each other. Their letters are filled with humor and feeling. I looked forward to seeing what their salutation would be in the following letter as they always made me smile.

But it's not for everyone

This is How You Lose the Time War is certainly not going to be everyone's cup of tea. It likely falls firmly in the you'll-either-love-it-or-hate-it category. I don't normally enjoy romance books, but this one is so unlike anything I've read.

To paraphrase a prophet: Letters are structures, not events. Yours give me a place to live inside.

The book took me back to a moment in middle school when I was obsessed with Romeo and Juliet (but Time War makes it sci-fi). Maybe that nostalgia combined with an echo of 12 Monkeys (a TV series I love) is what makes me shelve this as a cozy read.

I finished the last page knowing that I'll reread it sometime soon (and I'm someone who doesn't necessarily reread books).

My review from StoryGraph Mood: Adventurous, emotional, mysterious
Pace: Fast
Plot- or character-driven: Character
Strong character development: Yes
Loveable characters: Yes
Diverse cast of characters: It's complicated
Flaws of characters a main focus: It's complicated

Overall Rating 5 / 5 stars

#romance #sci-fi