I went into this book pretty naive. I thought that if I could grasp movies like Inception (not that it thematically has anything to do with this particular book, I was more thinking in terms of complexity), I’d surely be able to understand This Is How You Lose the Time War. Oh, how foolish a thought of mine!
From the get go, you get plunged into a world or multiple complex interweaving time strings you are not going to be able to comprehend. There is no explanation of this universe. There is no easing you into the matter of Red and Blue (the main characters who tell the stories, partly through letters but also just as you follow their path) and their unique rivalry turned deep connection. You just have to accept prompts such as:
Burn before reading.
Bubble to read.
Every seed is a letter.
When you start out, none of this makes sense. How do you burn a letter and THEN read it? But you soon come to accept that there are words on the page you know, that are familiar, but that don’t make sense in this constellation or context to you. It’s a process that took some time for me to come to terms with and just read like I understood what was going on. But then, Red and Blue aren’t “normal” people/humans. You cannot expect them to operate the way you would and to be confined to our meager options. They are agents of the Garden and the Agency respectively and that means something entirely new and complex again.
But as you go on, dive deeper, it doesn’t have to all seem logical to you. Maybe there is no universal logic that will ever be able to be applied to this novella and that is okay too. It works in its own unique way. I can see a lot of people struggling with it though and it is something to be aware of when you pick up This Is How You Lose the Time War.
What “saved” this book is the sapphic longing that oozed off the pages. It was beautiful and gave this confusing mess a purpose. There is really no other way to put it.
“I love you. I love you. I love you. I’ll write it in waves. In skies. In my heart. You’ll never see, but you will know. I’ll be all the poets, I’ll kill them all and take each one’s place in turn, and every time love’s written in all the strands it will be to you.”
Fazit: 3/5 stars! It makes more sense towards the end, but it’s still utterly confusing in its lyrical beauty.