This is How You Lose the Time War: The longest, short book ever

This is How You Lose the Time War
By: Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
My Rating: Three out of Five Stars
Best for: 16 and up

This might be the longest, short book I’ve ever read

My kids joke that some art is like writing in cursive. You could just simply write, or you could write in cursive. Singer/songwriters. Abstract artists. Anyone who’s art comes across as “extra” might earn the label. “She’s singing in cursive.” “He’s painting in cursive.” I think that’s how they’d describe This is How You Lose the Time War.

This is how to tell a story in cursive.

The writing is pretty. Very pretty. Too pretty. So pretty, I often felt lost in the pretty and wished they spent more time developing the really cool story hidden in the words.

I could absolutely appreciate the art and beauty of this clever little story. In a post-singularity future, two rival agents travel through time, pushing and nudging on people and events to shape a future that will benefit their faction. When one leaves the other a clandestine message that says “Burn before reading,” they begin a correspondence that stretches across time and reality. They are both the best at what they do. They are both alone. And they are both determined to win–because winning is the only thing that matters. Isn’t it?

The prose was endlessly quotable, these authors use of words to create their art will certainly stir envy in anyone who dares to pick up a pen. In fact, I found this beautiful quote in the author’s acknowledgements (I know you read those. You must!):

Books are letters in bottles, cast into the waves of time, from one person trying to save the world to another.
Keep reading. Keep writing. Keep fighting. We’re all still here.

Amal El-Mohtar

So to be clear: There is some really pretty writing in This is How You Lose the Time War. But pretty writing does not a pretty book make! This is a novella…209 pages long–but it took me SO LONG TO READ! There was no effort made to build out or explain any of the world. I felt as confused on page 209 as I was on page 1, and that made things drag. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the relationships. There just wasn’t enough to make it feel real beyond the lovely words. Clearly I’m not romantic enough in my appreciation of the art to overcome my need for at least some attempt at explaining the science.

There are a whole lot of fans of this story written in cursive. If beautiful, technicolored words make your heart sing, I bet you’ll join the legions singing praises and giving awards to This is How You Lose the Time War. If you need more than that to appreciate your stories, you can come sit with me in my boring corner of the library.

I’ll be the one pretending my pencil is a laser gun.

There were a few swears. Mild violence. Sex is mentioned in passing. Lots of pretty words. Best for advanced 16 and up.

Get your copy here

Happy reading!

2 responses to “This is How You Lose the Time War: The longest, short book ever”

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