This Is How You Lose the Time War

Yesterday I finished the book “This is How You Lose the Time War” by Alal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. I bought the book on a whim since I’ve heard really good praise on it. I started reading the book, and I was immediately confused for the first ten pages. It was very poetic, yet mysterious and it can catch you off guard if you didn’t at least read the back of the book. Essentially there are two sides of an epic war where each side has the ability to control time and space. The character Red was created by an AI singularity– led by someone called “Commandant”. The other main character is called Blue and is an agent created by an entity called the Garden which is a vast consciousness embedded in all organic beings.

The entire notion of two sides fighting each other through the depths of time and space, vying for a better position is fascinating. This alone could make for a thrilling action or fantasy story. But, instead, this was a poetic book about two star-crossed overs from different sides of this epic battle. Each page pulls you deeper into this mysterious premise and every letter exchanged between these two characters emotionally attaches yourself to the characters.

I feel like this book worked so well since it was in fact different from most other books I have read. A lot of books have poetic phrases, etc, but few compose themselves entirely as poetry. At first, it is confusing yes, but as you go on everything starts to click into place, and the story builds to a magnificent climax at the end. However, I don’t think that this poetic prose of writing would work as well if it was a full-length novel.

The main takeaway from this I believe is that love transcends all boundaries. It didn’t matter that Red and Blue were mortal enemies fighting on different sides of a bloody war, their love still persisted. In the end, Red and Blue are reunited and form their own threads of time-space. Their goal is to forge a place where they could live in unity– despite doing so also means fighting the two sides they defected from. But, that is how you win the time war, together. Does love always win? Does Red and Blue actually win? This book doesn’t offer concrete answers, but at the very least this book suggests that it wasn’t disjoint sides with heterogeneous beliefs that win the time war, it is together we win.

At least, that is what I took out of the book. Beautiful love story. It was a quick read, but well worth it.