El-Mohtar...and Gladstone sidestep the pitfall of the time-travel story by leaning way into the chaos of it all. They embrace the inexplicable convolutions of narrative rendered by bending time's arrow and make each chapter a vignette—a specific time, place, moment, detailing starship battles or coastal fishing villages where subtle, long games are played to shape the course of the future. But they don't traffic in the how or the why. There is no larger picture here. No grand design revealed ... El-Mohtar and Gladstone's voices as Red and Blue are dissimilar enough to give each a flavor, yet enough alike that there's an almost alien sense of dislocation about them ... And the thrill of This Is How You Lose The Time War suddenly becomes not the time travel, not the war, not any of those things that no one could ever describe anyway, but just the connection between two lonely professional killers with the ability to inscribe letters on lava.
What unfolds is a twisting, sapphic time travel fantasy love story that never stops surprising: El-Mohtar and Gladstone have written the ultimate in enemies-to-lovers romance, but with an intricate layer of lush, uncanny descriptions of the fantastic strands the agents are shifting; not to mention a careful net of time travel and parallel universes. This suspenseful novel is a superb realization of a difficult concept bulging with details: a time travel rival-secret-agent epistolary romance interspersed with descriptions of fascinating secret missions. Readers will reach the end and want to turn back to the start.
This stunning, semi-epistolary tale by coauthors El-Mohtar...and Gladstone...is a seamless story of time travel, sparring opponents, and the revelations of serving a cause. To unlock the complexities of language and plot here, readers will want to return to this book, with each read revealing a little more of its near-limitless substance.
Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit. This is the time-travelling queer epistolary romance I didn’t know I needed. This is the time-travelling queer epistolary romance you should definitely read, because while I’m not entirely sure I can do it justice in a review, I am entirely sure it’s an excellent work that – if there’s any justice in the world – we’ll see on awards lists next year ... Gladstone and El-Mohtar between them have built a precisely engineered marvel, cresting to a climax that takes every moment of what came before and infuses it with fresh meaning, gives it more layers ... Here the paradox is elegant and inevitable, as inevitable as tragedy but better. Here the paradox is the point, and it turns out that it’s a glorious thing ... With precise, cut-glass prose – poetic and pragmatic at once – deeply compelling characters, and a tensely rewarding conclusion, This Is How You Lose the Time War is one of the most striking works of fiction I’ve read this decade. I’m going to be thinking about it – returning to it – for months, at least. Read it, because I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The book trades heavily on its poetical prose style, a welter of ripe imagery and whimsical wordplay that now and then throws up a knuckle-gnawingly overblown sentence ... One gets the sense of the two authors thinking more of impressing each other with their fancifulness than entertaining the reader.
[An]...exquisitely crafted tale ... Part epistolary romance, part mind-blowing science fiction adventure, this dazzling story unfolds bit by bit, revealing layers of meaning as it plays with cause and effect, wildly imaginative technologies, and increasingly intricate wordplay. El-Mohtar...and Gladstone...pack their narrative full of fanciful ideas and poignant moments, weaving a tapestry stretching across the millennia and through multiple realities that’s anchored with raw emotion and a genuine sense of wonder. This short novel warrants multiple readings to fully unlock its complexities.