Review: This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone
This is going to be another one of those weird reviews where it won't be quite long enough to justify being a full review, but also not short enough to just go into the monthly wrap-up.
So, having said that - another stellar book; another contention for top of 2021 list (I'M SORRY. I PROMISE I'll trim that list to a more manageable length). This is a very weird, very bonkers, fantasy-dystopian-time travel-epistolary mishmash of a novel (it's 198 pages long, which for me tips it just into novel length, but I am open to being convinced one way or the other) that, if you read the blurb description, really doesn't sound like it should work - but it totally does. It's written in tandem by two science-fiction authors, and I think that duology worked very well for this format - each protagonist had a distinct voice and a distinct narrative, but it all blended together in a coherent whole that I absolutely adored.
The sense of world-building here is immense, even though the rules and strictures of this universe and the way time-traveling works is never concretely spoken. The rules are clear and easy to follow and the protagonists stick to them, so nothing ever feels cheap or gimmicky. It's all so imaginative and sweeping, it feels almost epic - the kind of format that I find works so well for science fiction, especially for me, a person who doesn't usually like science fiction.
And the writing is just so exquisite - every sentence is finely-balanced and finely-tuned; the wordplays and Easter eggs and puns are inch-perfect; and the feelings between the two protagonists is given a great deal of space and time to develop organically, which is quite an achievement in a book that's less than 200 pages long. Also, oh my days, the vocabulary and the metaphors in this book - simply sublime.
Basically I think everyone should just go read this book. Lean into the weirdness, accept you probably won't understand how this world works, and just enjoy the beautiful, wonderful, bizarre ride.