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August 2019 Sources
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This Is How You Lose the Time War: 09/17/19

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 slim novel, coming in just shy of 200 pages. It's told from the points of view of Red and Blue, two different time war agents on opposing sides. They've been watching each other from afar through different eras and different threads of time.

And then one discovers a letter written by the other. Thus begins an exchange of letters that spans all of time. The remainder of the book then is Blue looking for Red's letters and visa versa.

These aren't letters on paper. These are letters made into the very fabric of the world. They are in bones. They are in poison. They are in steam. They are impossible to see unless you know how.

I'm being rather vague in my review of this novel for two reasons. The first is to avoid spoilers. The second is because the book is complex even in its brevity. Every paragraph is packed full of imagery and allusion that could be analyzed in depth. A full deep reading of this novel could easily expand beyond the original length of the novel. That, though, is another project for another time.

When there is time in the title — especially one that implies time travel — I immediately go into road narrative spectrum mode. Sure enough, this beauty fits.

With opposing teams of travelers, each doing their own thing, but coordinating rendezvous to different places and times, we have a scarecrow / minotaur pair of travelers (99). They are both protecting their version of the timeline and they are both trapped in wars they don't entirely understand.

The destination is time itself — or uhoria (CC). It's different places and times up and down stream. The stops are also on different strands, different timelines. Just as utopia is no-place, uhoria is no-time. Red and Blue are both working towards their own society's version of that no-time, a reworking of the world as we know it to be a eutopia (good place) or dystopia (bad place). Or I suppose since this is time travel through-and-through, euhoria and dyshoria.

The route to uhoria, though, that one was trickier to discern. The clues lie in the way the different strands of time are described as being braided and twisted. There are also timelines where one or the other has to go through labyrinthine spaces. While throughout the majority of the book both believe to be in danger if their letters, their friendship, their love for each other is discovered, when that reality is brought to light, not much happens. Rather, what appears to be the end, isn't. Instead, time begins to unwind to an earlier state. This curving in towards one outcome and then unwinding to a re-contextualized starting state is the classic curving labyrinth (99).

Put all together, This Is How You Lose the Time War is the tale of a scarecrow and minotaur traveling through time via the labyrinth.

Five stars

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