This Is How You Lose the Time War

Paperback, 224 pages

Published March 17, 2020 by Gallery / Saga Press.


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5 stars (13 reviews)

Two time-traveling agents from warring futures, working their way through the past, begin to exchange letters—and fall in love in this thrilling and romantic book from award-winning authors Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone.

In the ashes of a dying world, Red finds a letter marked “Burn before reading. Signed, Blue.”

So begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents in a war that stretches through the vast reaches of time and space.

Red belongs to the Agency, a post-singularity technotopia. Blue belongs to Garden, a single vast consciousness embedded in all organic matter. Their pasts are bloody and their futures mutually exclusive. They have nothing in common—save that they’re the best, and they’re alone.

Now what began as a battlefield boast grows into a dangerous game, one both Red and Blue are determined to win. Because winning’s what you do in war. Isn’t it?

A tour de force collaboration from …

5 editions

1st reading of 2024, super fast, gripping, poetic, and sociopolitical

5 stars

This first read for 2024 was superb, though not always totally pleasant - as you'll see towards the end of this review. Check the section between the **** lines.

The novel is full of quotable, poetic and philosophical lines, and, mirroring its two-author composition, it centers around two main characters. Both are spies.

The first introduced is Red. She belongs to the Agency, a post-singularity technotopia. The other is Blue and she belongs to Garden, a single vast consciousness embedded in all organic matter. In their (Red & Blue) words, Garden is viny-hivey elfworld, as opposed to techy-mechy dystopia. These already say quite a lot about their two "Origin Worlds" or timeframes, or Strands. Either word works fine.

Each of them answers to a hierarchy - of sorts. Red to Commandant, and Blue, to Garden, as an ocean becoming a drop, in order to communicate with another drop - a …

1er lecture de 2024, super rapide, prenante, poétique, et sociopolitique

5 stars

This is how you lose the time war, a pour titre VF : Les Oiseaux du temps. Ma critique reprends les noms et termes de la VO, ne sachant pas exactement ce qu'ils sont en version traduite.

Cette première lecture pour 2024 a été superbe, même si pas toujours totalement agréable – comme vous le verrez vers la fin de cette critique. Vérifiez la section entre les lignes ****.

Le roman regorge de lignes citables, poétiques et philosophiques et, à l’image de sa composition à deux auteurs, il est centré sur deux personnages principaux. Toutes deux sont des espionnes.

La première introduite est le Red (Rouge). Elle appartient à l’Agence, une technotopie post-singularité.

L’autre est Blue (Bleue) et elle appartient à Garden (est-ce Jardin dans la VF?), une vaste conscience unique ancrée dans toute matière organique. Selon leurs mots (à Red & Blue), Garden est un monde elfique de ruche …

Either too short, or too long.

No rating

I can't decide if this would have worked better (for me) as a short story, or a full length book. If it was longer, it could have expanded on it's ideas. If it had been shorter, it wouldn't have felt so repetetive.

There is some good ideas here, but they deserve better than being hand waved away. How do Red and Blue target their letters to each other across strands of time? If there are certain contested junctures in time, shouldn't they be swarmed with agents, and multiple aspects of the same agents? If the protagonists are just cogs in two massive opposing machines battling for supremacy over all time - why does it seems like they are the only two operators in the field?

I'm not saying this is a bad book, there is a lot good writing here. But it didn't work for me. Two highly subjective stars. …

Weird and beautiful but not always up to its own ambition

4 stars

The letters that make up about half of this book are gorgeously written, and I love the story they tell. The basic idea of the time war is clever, and the descriptions of placetimes the characters find themselves in evocative, sometimes reminiscent of Calvino's Invisible Cities. I devoured this book in a few days.

And yet... something about it felt a little thin or hollow behind its fireworks. I think it was a good artistic choice to leave all technical details out, but I couldn't help but get hung up on the time paradoxes. Not that it's the authors' responsibility to necessarily avoid or solve them, but for me personally they intruded on the suspension of disbelief.

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5 stars
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5 stars