Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone, This Is How You Lose the Time War

This Is How You Lose the Time War is a short novella about two members of opposing factions (Red and Blue) engaged in a ‘time war’: that is they travel in time and attempt to erase each other’s existence. Except that one day Red decides to taunt Blue with a letter, and a correspondence emerges.

The book is entertaining by virtue of wit and brevity. However, the elements that are skipped over that end up being more interesting to reflect on later. Clearly these are two talented writers bouncing ideas off one another, but you get a sense that this whole fictional universe might have developed into something more. I was more interested in individual episodes than in the correspondence and its results. Perhaps the writers have ended up constrained by their witty idea.

In the end, we have a what is essentially a decent episode of Doctor Who where it is revealed that the Doctor and the Master are best mates really. I guess there is also a lot to say about the nature of individuals caught entrenc­hed between two incompatible world-views (or universe-views as the case may be), and the ability of love to play a wild card in that game. The names Red and Blue for the opposing sides might raise some antennae, but such sensitivities would be in vain in this case. As pure escapism the result is fine, just don’t expect any tips for your own time war.

· Books, Science Fiction, Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone, Twenty One

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