Fantasy & Beyond

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#1282
DragonFlame wrote: April 14th, 2024, 04:18My comment here was curt and dismissive, it has worried me and I apologise to all of you and the book, such disrespect was thoughtless and undeserved.
No apology necessary, DragonFlame, and if your post was disrespectful, then I'm in a lot of trouble right now :p.

It's completely understandable that war is a touchy subject, especially right now, though the book was written years before the current conflicts. That said, as your lifelong experience relates, this stuff has always been going on in the background, even if it's not been as in our faces as it is right now.

I'm not a particularly hopeful person myself, but for what it's worth, there is absolutely a growing movement of people out there who are educating themselves to not only understand the reality, but finding their voices to stand up against it. And I think if books like this can trigger us to think on these things more -- I'm learning more about the Cold War just from this small discussion in a small community of hobby readers! -- then surely that can only be a good thing.

TLDR! Throw your thoughts out there, and the more disagreeable the better, imo! Because it's only be disagreement that we actually challenge ourselves and potentially grow. Else we're just living in a vacuum reinforcing our own views with no need to develop further.
#1326
DaveBates wrote: April 9th, 2024, 09:57 the book's called "How to Lose the Time War", but correct me if I'm wrong, did either side lose? To the best of my understanding nothing Red or Blue did impacted the war in any way. At best, both sides ultimately lost one of their top agents, but this merely leaves them on equal footing.
Aren't the last words in the book "This is how we win.", subverting the title? ;)

Interesting thoughts to time travel (your spoiler text). While I think you're right, I also think that there is something like "personal time" each time traveler has and takes with them, weaving like a thread back and forth through "real" time. You can't travel back in your personal time, there is only one way (forward) and while you can influence time and history, you can't influence your own time-thread. Seeker-Red couldn't have done anything that had changed the thread of her personal time.

cupiscent wrote: April 13th, 2024, 23:24 I feel like this has been a hilarious look into how I read [...] It's also part of why I often "pick" the twist in a story - yes, I thought of that one, but I also thought of six other wild ideas that didn't happen, so it's not really any achievement! :phew:

If you tick off all the numbers on your lottery ticket you'll absolutely get the winning numbers. ;D

All that said, it's always super satisfying when elements I had seized upon and was holding onto a pivotal pieces turn out to indeed be the key things. For instance, yes, Blue's childhood illness was highly relevant, and the Seeker was indeed a future iteration, and about infiltration through familiarity, just not at the point and in the way I'd wondered about. And it's such a satisfying finale development, big and bold and breaking out.
+1

I really do like the... triumph of individualism? about the ending. That these two psychopaths - bred for war, trained for war, honed as weapons - can choose to turn away from war toward each other, to choose love over... I was going to say violence, but there's violence in their love, and there will be violence in their future as they protect their love. But there's something in there about the ability of everyone to choose better, given knowledge and opportunity.

Well said. I'm not sure it's individualism, though. It's just turning their backs to the two factions, searching (and hopefully finding) something new that hasn't existed before.

They are the ones who walk away; why don't they break the system instead? But just in walking away - unthinkable, impossible, outrageous - they are opening a door. They are making their choices, and they are showing others that there is a choice. They can't make that choice for everyone else - and breaking the system would be making that choice for others - but they can stand firm. Neither this nor that but a secret third thing. There are options.
+1

Thanks for your short digression through the history you witnessed in your long life, DragonFlame. :)

This third of the book was definitely the strongest. And I liked the ending for the same reasons you all did. But I'm not sure if I would have reached it without the book club. Maybe you need to engage with it and think more about what you read than I did. It certainly feels more like a project than a story sometimes. I think I would have "got" this book more and would have liked it more had I read it when I was still a student, without kids, lots of free time and the philosophy lectures fresh in my mind. ;)
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#1335
I finished the book and I enjoyed it!

I think one of the reasons that I didn't get stuck on some things that others did is that I've adopted a simple policy for any stories on time travel to basically accept their version of how time travel works. As soon as you start thinking about the actual implications of going back in time and changing things, you will end up in a place where things simply do not make sense--at least not to our minds and current knowledge of physics and causality. So I accept the way it's written in each story (well, to a certain point--there still has to be some kind of internal logic to it).

I also never had a problem with the setting and the lore the way many clearly did. Those never struck me as something that needed to be fleshed out or explained other than to serve as a backdrop to the story of Blue and Red, and I was given the information I needed for that. Perhaps it fails to hold together upon detailed analysis, but I never felt the story asked me to look that closely at it. And to reiterate my earlier point: no story involving time travel will make sense if examined closely.

That is not to say I accept everything at face value. Trust me: I can be a stickler for details and I have huge problem when something doesn't strike me as believable. If the story demands that the logic of certain elements is coherent or that the settings is explained, then the failure to do so will annoy me to no end and put me off the whole thing. But at no point while reading this did these things strike me as something that mattered to the storytelling. To me, this story was about Red and Blue from beginning to end.

I am not saying reading it otherwise is wrong; I am explaining my experience of the story. I do believe this was the intent of the story. With that said, if many people read it differently, the authors may have failed to deliver their message as intended. It's tough to draw the line between the responsibility of the writers to frame their intended message and the responsibility of the readers to 'find' that message. But at some point, writing for everyone certainly becomes impossible. Our interpretations are deeply affected by our background: cultural, educational, social, psychological, and otherwise. Someone who has never read SF might be confused by this book for a different reason than someone who has only read 'hard' SF. The first might be confused because they think the experimental structure is a genre convention, while the second may expect the setting and science to be in strong focus and driving elements of the story.

DaveBates wrote:I'm not one to give too much clout to titles, as I think most books sell based on word of mouth rather than people browsing and being grabbed by front matter, but would they not find it a problem if they were drawn to this with a rather explicit question in how a time war is lost, only to get to the end and that question never be answered? I'm curious how others feel on that matter.
Titles and covers are highly important to whether a book does well or not. They are not the only factors, but to dismiss them is a mistake, and there is plenty of evidence of that. Human decision-making is easily swayed by appearances, insinuations, and unanswered questions, and none of us are immune to it. This is supported by plenty of research into human cognition, a field that has been developing rapidly over the past few decades and that has produced some fascinating and sometimes disturbing discoveries about how we make decisions.

As for the story question in the title, there are several things to say about that! First, it was my impression that the ending suggested that Red and Blue did not intend to completely separate themselves from the war, but that they intended to build something of their own, a third option that would inevitably clash with the first two. With their expertise and experience, they could challenge the way everything worked. They wished to wipe the table clean, so to speak.

Beyond that, there are several ways you could interpret a loss of the time war as a result of the story, some already mentioned by others. If no one ever wins, does that mean no one loses, or that everyone does? Both Garden and the Agency lost their top operatives, each of them pivotal to the war effort. And like I said, I believe the result of the ending will be a new war with Garden and the Agency on one 'side', fighting against their former agents who wish to bring it all down.

But to discuss the concept of a story question further: the question in the title is only the first story question. The story question can, and often does, change throughout the story. The question of the time war draws us in, but it is soon replaced by the more important question of Red and Blue's relationship, the 'will they, won't they?' that dominates much of the book, to my mind. The time war and associated question become secondary to the question of love. But putting "will the top rival agents of the opposing factions in a multiverse time war fall in love?" into a title is difficult. A good story question is simple.

The title is also referred to throughout the book. They are constantly taunting each other with "you will still lose", yet I don't think either of them believe it--or want it. They clearly savour the chase, the fight, the rivalry. They know no other way of life. The idea that these two will actually retire and live peacefully somewhere is, to me, ridiculous--even though they refer to it themselves in their letters. They are incapable of it. And as Xiagan mentions, the title is subverted. "This is how we win". But if they win, someone else must surely lose? I don't have the time to scrounge the text for the indicators, but I was left with the impression that in creating Red and Blue, Garden and Agency inevitably created their own downfall.

I hope I've managed to make some sense to someone here. It's always difficult to write these things without ending up going back and forth to put together a whole structured essay (at least, to me it is). I could delve into this more deeply and go back to pour over the text, and part of me wants to, but at some point it's more important to get my thoughts out there in whatever shape they are currently in. :)
DaveBates liked this
#1343
Magnus wrote:I hope I've managed to make some sense to someone here. It's always difficult to write these things without ending up going back and forth to put together a whole structured essay (at least, to me it is). I could delve into this more deeply and go back to pour over the text, and part of me wants to, but at some point it's more important to get my thoughts out there in whatever shape they are currently in. :)
You made total sense to me! The discussion's been really interesting throughout, and I'm not gonna lie, the interpretations and explanations yourself, cupiscent and xiagan have thrown out have substantially enhanced the story for me. So job well done.
Magnus, ScarletBea, xiagan liked this
#1377
Sneaking in late with a though that's been in my head ever since I finished this ages ago and that I've wanted to test on people ever since...

Anyone else feel the true climatic point of the novella is the two declaring their love, and all the action afterwards is just a very long epilogue?

Because I have to say that's kind of how I felt, and found it robbed the book of its impact. It felt like the sort of fight where we all know the good guy is going to win so why bother?
DaveBates wrote: April 9th, 2024, 09:57
I'm not one to give too much clout to titles, as I think most books sell based on word of mouth rather than people browsing and being grabbed by front matter, but would they not find it a problem if they were drawn to this with a rather explicit question in how a time war is lost, only to get to the end and that question never be answered? I'm curious how others feel on that matter.
I have to say I've never thought about this before.

My gut instinct is that anyone drawn to the book by the title is probably the sort of philosophically minded person who understands some questions aren't answered explicitly.
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#1398
Peat wrote:Anyone else feel the true climatic point of the novella is the two declaring their love, and all the action afterwards is just a very long epilogue?
I didn't feel that way, but then I wasn't as enamored with the romance side as others here were, since I never really bought the characters as individuals who'd really care about romance.

That said, I also never felt anxious for the protagonist's safety, which is interesting now you bring it up. Maybe that's a side effect of the time travel backdrop. I don't think I ever doubted that Red would "save" Blue, though there was a short period where I suspected they'd go the whole Romeo and Juliet route of Blue to pulling a fake death only for Red to mistake it and do something stupid in response. By the time I realised that wasn't the case, they were already in the end action sequence and I'd been grabbed by the coming together of all the crumbs that had been spread in earlier.
#1400
DaveBates wrote: May 7th, 2024, 09:28
Peat wrote:Anyone else feel the true climatic point of the novella is the two declaring their love, and all the action afterwards is just a very long epilogue?
I didn't feel that way, but then I wasn't as enamored with the romance side as others here were, since I never really bought the characters as individuals who'd really care about romance.

That said, I also never felt anxious for the protagonist's safety, which is interesting now you bring it up. Maybe that's a side effect of the time travel backdrop. I don't think I ever doubted that Red would "save" Blue, though there was a short period where I suspected they'd go the whole Romeo and Juliet route of Blue to pulling a fake death only for Red to mistake it and do something stupid in response. By the time I realised that wasn't the case, they were already in the end action sequence and I'd been grabbed by the coming together of all the crumbs that had been spread in earlier.
This for me too, although not because "I wasn't as enamored with the romance side" as Dave says, but because I (we all?) already knew that was coming, so it didn't feel very surprising or the main objective, I guess.
#1426
Hmm, yeah. I think my biggest criticism definitely has to do with the pacing of the main storyline (the Red & Blue romance). I must admit that I really enjoyed the letters in which they ended up declaring their undying love--for the very reason that it did come a little unexpected! It felt like they were saying something out loud that they both had known for a long time. I hazard a guess that the authors intentionally 'misplaced' this declaration (story-wise) to reflect the fact that Red & Blue were just as surprised by it as we were. Red & Blue were putting words to something they had known subconsciously for a long time, but it caught them off-guard.

But there remains the issue of what to do with the rest of the story once the big reveal is over and done with. And I think that's where it falters a little. The tension that was there is gone, and can't be replaced by the more external question of 'will they find a way to be together?' It's just not as powerful. I still rate the book 4/5. Despite its flaws, the book firmly held my attention and interest from beginning to end.