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This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (Books 2020, 15)

This has won all the awards, and rightly so. Or not quite all: it’s a finalist for the Hugo novella award. At the time of writing, we don’t know whether or not it will win.

Unless I’ve travelled downthread and found out.

It’s a novella, which may be the perfect length of story, in some sense. It’s a love story across time and space and multiple parallel existences… It’s pure dead brilliant.

The actual nature of the war, of the sides, even of the protagonists, Red and Blue, is ambiguous at best. But that doesn’t matter because the writing is so exquisite.

The Wikipedia article describes it as an epistolary novel. That’s only partly true, and not just because it’s a novella. The letters are there, and are fundamental, but I feel that to be truly ‘epistolary,’ the whole story must be told in letters, and that is not the case here. But that doesn’t matter.

One minor oddity I alluded to above: The future is referred to as ‘downthread’ and the past ‘upthread.’ That seems the wrong way round to me, but maybe it reflects the fact that, normally, we can’t stop sliding down into the future.

Go. Get. Read. VVG. They’re adapting it for TV. I can’t quite imagine what that will look like, but I’m keen to find out.

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