Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU

Free On KU
Free On KU

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


Partly sci-fi, partly time-travel, partly hyper-surrealism, mostly fantastical and completely romantic – this book is an indescribable, terrifyingly deeply emotional experience. It is short enough to be called a novella with an emotional impact vast enough to be called an epic.

Two factions, Garden and the Agency (led by the Commandment), are engaged in an endless battle to recreate time to their singularity. With agents from each faction weaving in and out of multiple realities and arranging pasts and futures (downthreads and upthreads) the battle between the factions is a heaving beast.

At a battlefield in the midst of the dead, victorious agent, Red, of Agency is accosted by a missive. A letter. A letter from a rival agent, Blue. A letter that throws down a gauntlet. The correspondence between the two agents thus starts and as it continues, their feeling for each other grows and deepens. They continue the exchange though they both know how dangerous it is. Especially since a mysterious a Seeker is stalking them and imbibing their exchanges. When it all unravels, one has to kill the other.

Each chapter is an episode in the lives of the two protagonists. The episodes are interesting but we felt a hurry for each to conclude so that the real story of emotions could progress.

At the start Blue and Red seem to cross each other's paths to thwart the other one's mission (successfully) but express their admiration for the other's work.

Then there is a change. Tell me something true or nothing at all. With this their relationship forges a more personal path wherein they share themselves with each other. The bare themselves down to their most intimate selves; down to their soul. (It is interesting to observe that Blue not only starts the correspondence but she is also the one who deepens the connection each time.)

As their emotions grow, the competitiveness vanishes. They leave missions incomplete or not as cleanly complete as they could have because of a greed to read a letter from the other. In one achingly beautiful chapter, Blue completely undoes Garden's plan (executed by Blue herself) that took millennia to mature, to save Red in the Past. 

The context of the book is complicated but the emotion is totally honest and expansive. It is not an easy read by any means because the contextual story is written in often abstruse, sometimes  disjointed paragraphs. In fact, it is a complex weaving and overlapping of the Past, Present and Furure towards the end.

But, the letters! The letters that conclude each chapter are absolutely lyrical in content, feelings and expression. 

One of the most beautiful thingz in the book is that Red and Blue have no fixed physical forms. They are amorphous beings of intense feelings for each other. The love and longing between the two is all shapes of gorgeous and all shades of beautiful. Superlatives fail us in trying to describe this book. In trying to express how much it touched us how much it moved us; how it made us cry.

We cannot recommend this book enough. Even if you want to skip the rest of the book, do, do read the letters between Blue and Red. They are truly glorious.  


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