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#1143
As I read through to the end of this book I genuinely tried to analyse properly and be open minded. I worked out the 'plot' of the background war, more or less, appreciated the ingenuity of the exchange of letters and recognised the development of the love story. But the never ending violence and the clear reiteration of humanity's abject failure overwhelmed me. Future salvation through the power of love seems incredibly naive. This book was just not for me.

Certainly appreciated the discussion points of Dave and Magnus, to me they were very relevant and helpful. As for Kindle 's underlining of other people's highlights I always turn them off. Apart from helping school kids with assignments, to me they are as great a sin as people writing in library books. #$!
ScarletBea, DaveBates, Magnus and 1 others liked this
#1145
DragonFlame wrote:As for Kindle 's underlining of other people's highlights I always turn them off. Apart from helping school kids with assignments, to me they are as great a sin as people writing in library books. #$!
I didn't know you could turn them off! But I'm not sure I want to, as they do make me smile. Some of them I can understand, as they are really inciteful lines, but some just make me smile because the lines are just not as good as the 1000+ highlights seem to think they are :p.
DragonFlame liked this
#1146
So I'm also through, and as Bea said, it does pick up into a fun and exciting climax.

To quote Red from an earlier chapter, "I love, love, loooved" the chapter where she infiltrates Garden. Really, I wish there'd been way more of that in earlier chapters where we can see this immense sentience taking over time and space. I'm pretty sure the scenery was similar in the chapter with the ... I think Magnus said it was a "lion"? though I thought it was a spider, but it wasn't as strong since it was told from Blue's PoV who was already familiar with the setting. Regardless, the whole Garden side really stimulated my imagination.

I'm also a massive sucker for foreshadowing and dropping seeds throughout a story that all come together in the end, and honestly, I thought this was really done well here with the twist in who Seeker was. So 10/10 there.

I didn't mention this earlier, but while I try to be open minded with most science theories, the mere suggestion of time travel makes my eyes roll. As such, when it comes to time travel stories, while I enjoy them, I tend to have to turn my brain off because time travel by it's nature is one giant rock in the middle of a plot just waiting to be tripped over, and this was no exception.

So spoilers for those reading this before having read the chapters!
So the end concept is that Red, grief stricken, abandons her loyalties in a quest to save Blue, and to do this she decides to consume parts of Blue within the letters she wrote, creating an internal mutation that changes her into something similar to Garden, allowing her to break through Garden's defenses to visit Blue at an early age where she's still developing inside Garden, and vomit up a bunch of nanites that will give her a resistance to the poison she ingests however many years later.

Now, let's ignore the logical first jump here, which would be to travel to a point in time right before Blue kills herself to plead that she doesn't and to run away with her. We'll also ignore the inherent risk of travelling to multiple key points where they interacted, which could potentially lead agents of the Agency to her and Blue's engagement points. We'll also ignore the possibility that consuming Blue's essence won't give Red enough mutation power to break through Garden's defenses. And we'll also ignore that even with these antibodies, Blue still appears dead for a brief period of time after consuming the poison, enough for Red to go off on this quest, because obviously these are slow working nanites. That's all explainable.

The issue is that in fulfilling this plan, Red hasn't only alerted her own side into thinking she's defected to the enemy, but when she gives Blue her vaccine, she also alerts Garden to the fact that their sacred heartland has been infiltrated by an enemy agent, so both sides are now out to kill her.

In Garden's case, having seen that one of their sporelings has been altered by an enemy agent, likely corrupted, and in that they are a biological entity built around growing, could well have a cascade effect on the rest of the garden, the immediate response should be to either destroy Blue, or isolate her to study, learn what was done to her, and see if this Agency infection can be countered and used against them. Instead, what Garden does is banish Blue to mature in complete solitude, before visiting her with the claim that she should probably be destroyed, but is instead talked out of it by Blue to then send her out into the field.

For the Agency's side, they now believe one of their top agents has been compromised and willingly turned into the Garden enemy. Here, they're immediate response should be to either erase Red from history or at the very least send out agents into the time streams to scout her and isolate the moment she's believed to be turning, at which point she's destroyed then, preserving what victories she's given them till that point. Instead, they seem to do nothing but wait until they catch Red fleeing Garden, when they bundle her and drag her off to be torture interrogated until a resurrected Blue breaks her out.

You could maybe argue that both these deficiencies fall into that earlier rule that they can't directly engage with one another in time events, but it's hard to swallow that you can fight a war like this to begin with, let alone that this is such a holy rule that you'd willingly lose the war to adhere to it, even though Red herself has been shown not to be abiding by it on at least two occasions with Red visiting Blue's body and her immature self, as well as, if Magnus's explanation of the spider scene is correct, also being there to save her younger self, not to mention that Garden was attempting to kill the younger Red as well, so they clearly do engage with one another.

It's a situation where the rules of time travel are changing and being turned on and off as and when needed, because the very nature of time travel means that nothing you do can ever matter unless you get killed doing it. And funnily enough, the authors do acknowledge this, where I think between chapter 20-22 Red openly questions the point of the war when battles are just being refought over and over, and outcomes are just being overwritten with the various neighbouring threads. These were the very questions I was asking in the first chapter 1-10 thread! Didn't get any answers, mind, because there isn't any, but I did appreciate the authors lampshading this giant time travelling plot hole, even though in doing so it also shines a spotlight on the craziness of the events to come.
So yeah, an enjoyable fast read, with an imaginative setting, flawed in areas when given deeper thought, but unique in its structuring and layout.

On a final point, and this one's for Magnus when he gets here -- and I probably wouldn't have noticed this had I not been thinking on it for this discussion -- 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.

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.
#1210
And now I'm all done. (For the second time, though I really didn't remember much of the story, save a sense of the tone, a vague idea of the overall shape, perhaps a lingering notion of which elements were more important than others?)

I feel like this has been a hilarious look into how I read - all of the wild theories I've been holding onto as possibilities throughout, like the Agency and Garden exploring paths to detente, are not borne out at all! But I still very much enjoy juggling all these variant possibilities while reading, it's a big part of the fun for me, so I love stories like this one (or like the Locked Tomb books) that allow the space to do so. 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:

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. (Though I don't feel the fight-with-self was handled as well as it could have been. "Oh, I couldn't help reaching out" just feels weak.)

I really enjoyed them sticking a flag in Romeo and Juliet. Two houses both alike in dignity, wild love and questionable decisions, poisons and not-quite deaths, yes good.

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.

That said, there's something a little Omelas about that ending. 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.

In the end, I think I enjoyed this more on the reread than I did the first time through. On my first reading, I wanted there to have been more about the factions and the characters' histories, so that there was more sense of what they were risking, what they were giving up, by turning to each other. But on this reading, I felt that there was enough of that in the background and tone of everything (though maybe some of that was my unconscious remembering of material that exists later in the novella). And on this reading, I felt it wasn't so much about risk and giving-up, as opportunity and gaining. Each represents for the other a wild chance at something they never even imagined. And it's beautiful.

DaveBates wrote: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.

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.
For my money... every time I turned a page and saw the title in the header, it added resonance to what was happening. It gave a little menace. Is this how they lose the time war? Is this all a ploy? It centres the risk in a way I found very effective.

And in the end, I feel like the questions of winning or losing - and what the time war even is - are essential to the overall piece. What are they achieving? Why are they even fighting? I am reminded of that hippie quote: "Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?" Perhaps how you lose the time war is to engage it in, dragging on for eternities, until your soldiers walk away... Or perhaps how you win the time war is to stop. Or perhaps the very idea of winning or losing is the problem.
DragonFlame, ScarletBea, xiagan and 2 others liked this
#1212
But the never ending violence and the clear reiteration of humanity's abject failure overwhelmed me. Future salvation through the power of love seems incredibly naive. This book was just not for me.
My 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.

My reaction stems from many memories of events which are history now. I grew up with WW2 bomb sites at the end of my street and all around my beautiful home city.

The Cold War was a shadow always in the back of our minds even as we had the fun of our twenties and thirties, and often the sad lost rebellions of those years is forgotten or unknown. For example, we saw on TV the sacrifice of Jan Palach in Czechoslovakia, and heard the last free radio on the airwaves from Hungary, begging the world for help as the Russian tanks rolled in. But nobody helped them.

Then we came to the 1990's and good events were happening such as Glasnost, Nelson Mandela freed, Peace in Ireland, the Berlin Wall came down. Now, all over again, I dread the news every day.

We do need books like these to inspire discussions and deeper thinking about war and all ways to try keeping hope alive, even if they are hard to read.
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#1271
As I said before, it's been a few years since I listened to this, but my overwhelming memory is that it was a fun listen if I didn't pay too much attention. I think that stems from the fact that the authors are more interested in writing a romance (literally enemies to lovers) than they are in writing about a time war. The time war is largely a way to keep changing the setting every chapter, and I never felt any large stakes as a result. the stakes Red and Blue are concerned with are far more personal. It works as a romance, but it doesn't do much for me personally.

On a related note, I've recently finished The Big Time, by Fritz Lieber. Written in 1958, it's possibly the first ever story about a time war, and I can't help but feel it does a better job, both in terms of personal arcs and showing the effects of the larger conflict. This one is set in a field hospital that exists outside of time, and sees a group of soldiers and medics stranded there when things go awry. It's equally short, and also equally vague on who the sides are, but I found it infinitely more satisfying. Largely, I think, because it keeps the stage much smaller, leaving the larger war to hearsay and reports, rather than skipping all over the place like This Is How You Lose The Time War.
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#1281
cupiscent wrote: April 13th, 2024, 23:24Perhaps how you lose the time war is to engage it in, dragging on for eternities, until your soldiers walk away... Or perhaps how you win the time war is to stop. Or perhaps the very idea of winning or losing is the problem.
I really like this take. Hmm...

Certainly got me thinking there!

As for the Romeo and Juliet bit, I think Blue's suicide was the part I disliked the most, as it felt completely out of place in not only how Blue was not the most fanatically in love of the pair, but she also seemed to be engaging in something far bigger, and Red basically wasn't at any risk, and said as much, even if you could argue Blue didn't believe her. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that they were going for the Romeo and Juliet ending, and I was editing a massive, MASSIVE response in my head for if they had! Needless to say, they didn't, which I'm glad, as I think the ending they went with was infinitely better than if they'd gone for the double suicide based on misunderstanding clone.
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