This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone #TimeWar

This is HowTIHYLTTW is such an unusual book, quite extraordinary really.  Thought provoking, clever and the type of read that will appeal on multiple levels.  I loved it.

Here we have a most unlikely love story, told primarily in epistolary format, this is a tale that spans the ages and cunningly side steps some of the issues that can sometimes accompany time travel and science fiction.

On the face of it this is a story of two agents, both jumping back and forth through time in order to manipulate the timeline.  Both pitched against each other and yet eventually, through loneliness, finding a place in each other’s affection that could prove deadly should that affection become known to their commanders.

I’m not going to enter into details of the plot to be honest.  I think each reader will have a different experience when reading this and so to try and sum it up in a nutshell is not something I’m keen to do – plus at just over 200 pages I really believe this will be best discovered with no prior knowledge going into the read.

So, what else can I tell you.

This works quite simply as a story of two people, adversaries to begin with, who slowly become enamoured with each other.  The writing is beautiful, flowery maybe but also with so many unique concepts that it is simply fascinating.

This brings me to the sci-fi elements.  This is the type of science fiction that doesn’t over elaborate – which means I love it.  It also means that it doesn’t become convoluted with over ambitious explanations.  The time travel element simply ‘is’.  I don’t know how it works, I don’t really know what missions both of these agents are undertaking, I don’t know what the objectives are – I just know that things happen and taken on face value like this there’s a sort of easy acceptance to it all.  Time travel can be another very complicated thread with all the paradoxes and getting turned around in circles but the simplicity here means no headaches for me – and no doubt no headaches for you too.  Now you might be thinking that you want all those explanations and details – and maybe I would have liked some hints – but, at the same time I found I really didn’t miss them.  It’s incredibly odd – they simply weren’t necessary to the story.  In fact, given that the two characters are so firmly rooted in this future world why would they need to explain anything to each other.  They wouldn’t – and so any such detail would only end up feeling forced.

The writing is really rather lovely.  There’s a sparsity to it where nothing at all is wasted, everything has a meaning here and it’s the sort of writing that makes you want to stop and reflect.  Don’t be too keen to gobble up these pages in a rush, you will be missing out if you do.

I may have mentioned that I love letter writing in my stories and this is no exception.  The letters here are sprinkled in the most unlikely places, scattered amongst seeds and other unexpected items.  I loved reading them.  The thoughts and desires but more than that the way the letters change over the course of time becoming something that both correspondents are desperately waiting for and have in fact become dependent upon.  On top of this there is the almost poetic style which when coupled with the unlikely romance between the two main characters gives it an uptodate Shakespearean feel.

I loved all the references, the ones I picked up on anyway, I’m sure I missed a good few or they were simply above my head as this is a clever little nugget.  And this brings me to my final thoughts, which I’m still dwelling on.  This is a story that I felt had a subtle underlying message.  The two central characters are fundamentally opposed in the first instance purely as a result of their own make-up.  This is set in a far future that has seen advances not only in technology but also in nature and yet the two don’t sit well together – in fact they’re at war with each other – right up until they discover they can get along.

Anyway, this book is very different, very unusual in fact, and, very good.

I received a copy courtesy of the publisher, through Netgalley, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

4.5 of 5 stars.

Finally my thanks to Jo Fletcher Books for including me in the blog tour for this wonderful novel.  I’ve posted the banner below so you can see which other bloggers are taking part and maybe pay them a visit to check out their thoughts too.

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Can’t Wait Wednesday : Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone: this sounds like a whole lot of fun.

Empress of foreverA feminist Guardians of the Galaxy—a smart, swashbuckling, wildly imaginative adventure of a rag-tag team of brilliant misfits, dangerous renegades, and enhanced outlaws in a war-torn future.

A wildly successful innovator to rival Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, Vivian Liao is prone to radical thinking, quick decision-making, and reckless action. On the eve of her greatest achievement, she’s trying to outrun those who are trying to steal her success.

In the chilly darkness of a Boston server farm, Viv sets her ultimate plan into motion. A terrifying instant later, Vivian Liao is catapulted through space and time to a far future where she confronts a destiny stranger and more deadly than she could ever imagine.

The end of time is ruled by an ancient, powerful Empress who blesses or blasts entire planets with a single thought. Rebellion is literally impossible to consider–until Vivian arrives. Trapped between the Pride, a ravening horde of sentient machines, and a fanatical sect of warrior monks who call themselves the Mirrorfaith, Viv must rally a strange group of allies to confront the Empress and find a way back to the world and life she left behind.

A magnificent work of vivid imagination and universe-spanning action, Empress of Forever is a feminist Guardians of the Galaxy crossed with Star Wars and spiced with the sensibility and spirit of Iain M. Banks and William Gibson.

Due for publication : June 2019

Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone, readalong: final week

Today is the final week of our readalong of Max Gladstone’s Two Serpents rise. Lynn over at  Little Lion Lynnet’s  is our host this week.  Without further ado lets get to the Q&A and if you haven’t read this book be aware that there will be spoilers below.

1. I think we all pegged Mal for being involved with whatever is going wrong in Dresediel Lex after the way Book 3 ended last week. How do you feel about discovering how deep that involvement goes?

Sort of disappointed to be honest – which I think just goes to show that I was really hoping that she wouldn’t be quite so bad or that somehow she’d manage to find some sort of compromise and would be redeemed.  I wound up feeling like she was just as big a fanatic as Temoc and would stop at nothing to get what she wanted.  I mean, I always had trust issues with Mal but I really didn’t expect her to be quite so extreme.

2. Caleb and Temoc have to work together to save Dresediel Lex (and the world) from certain destruction. Do you think they make a good team?

I quite enjoyed reading that element of the story and again was surprised that Temoc had such different intentions.  Clearly he’d pulled the wool over my eyes as well as Caleb’s.  I think Teo’s remarks about him not being a team player when they were running up the stairs was a good hint in that direction and also her distrust of him should have given me more of a clue but I just failed to pick it up and was really hoping that he was going to go all out to try and make Caleb’s suggestion work.  He didn’t really end up making any friends in the end.  Strangely, Mal and Temoc turned out to be very similar in the way they were prepared to go to such extreme lengths.

3. What do you think of the narrative’s overall treatment of Teo? Especially in light of her role in the finale?

I think Teo has been an interesting character to read and I was a bit surprised to be honest at her becoming such a victim all of a sudden.  Again I didn’t see that coming at all – but, she managed to turn the situation around and with Caleb working with her summon up the Red King.  I was pleased with the eventual outcome for both Caleb and Teo.

4. In the epilogue Caleb seems to have found a way to compromise between the ways of his father and the new world brought about by the God Wars. Do you think he’ll succeed in his goals?

It does seem like something of a dangerous idea but I really think he could make it work, The Red King seems inclined to help and Teo and Caleb make a good partnership.

You have to hand it to Max Gladstone for coming up with such an unusual world filled with strange creatures, magic and Gods and for managing to make his stories into something much more than you would generally expect.  I’ve really enjoyed all the discussion that this book has inspired and so thanks to all the other bloggers for making this so interesting.

Other bloggers taking part:

Lisa – Over the Effing Rainbow
Lauren – Violin in a Void
Anya – On Starships & Dragonwings
Heather – The Bastard Title
Lynn – Little Lion Lynnet’s 
Ria – Bibliotropic
Susan – Dab of Darkness

Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone, readalong week 3

Today is our third week of the readalong of Max Gladstone’s Two Serpents Rise this week hosted by the lovely Lauren at Violin in a Void – so be sure and stop over there too.  This week the action has certainly increased and I’m keen to get to the discussion so will jump in without further ado.  If you haven’t read this series please beware of spoilers below and if you have read it then please join the discussion!

1. After the fight at Seven Leaf, Caleb apologises to Mal and they finally start dating. What do you think of the way their relationship has developed? Do you agree with Mal that Caleb chased her because he needs gods in his life?

It’s a strange relationship and I haven’t entirely trusted Mal for a while now.  The last few chapters have done nothing to change my feelings in that respect although oddly I don’t find myself disliking her.  Conversely, I didn’t think Caleb had anything to apologise for but it seemed that he wanted the relationship to continue more than Mal did and so did the chasing and apologising – it’s becoming something of a pattern really in terms of Caleb wanting this relationship the most.  Mal is a conundrum – I don’t really know what her feelings are about Caleb but I think their whole relationship is based on misunderstanding.  I don’t think they really know each other at all and what they have together is very tenuous to say the least and based on what they both want to believe rather than what is actually the truth. It’s going to be interesting to see if they have something stronger or not.

2. This section has been quite philosophical. Where do you stand on the debate – gods, no gods, or some kind of compromise? Do you agree with Caleb’s idea of sacrificing your morality because the religious alternative is even worse?

It’s an intriguing debate and I’m not totally sure what the right way forward is really. It seems to me that both ways are flawed at the moment – either an all powerful and greedy God or a substitute system that still requires very dubious moral choices.  It would be better if a compromise could be reached but I’m not really sure that’s possible.  It’s difficult to comment really because in our world people either believe in Gods or not – in Gladstone’s worlds it’s a different thing altogether because clearly there is very real evidence that they do exist – it’s more about what you’re prepared to put up with to live the life you want.

3. Gladstone is still unveiling amazing things in his world, like a sport based on myth, the eclipse festival, walking on water, and a half-dead sea god whose heart is being used for desalination. What interested you the most? 

The walking on water idea brought me to a standstill to be honest – I had to stop and go back a little bit, like, ‘did I really just read that’.  Such an unusual idea that put me in mind of the story of Jesus walking on water!  And the whole idea of using a half dead God to clean up sea water for drinking purposes – it’s a bit horrible really isn’t it? Like you’ll just take the bits and pieces of whatever happens to suit your needs the most.  So, you’re not having a God based system because the costs are still too high for you but you’ll just keep certain parts – I’m not entirely happy with that idea – ties in with question 2 of course.  In terms of jaw dropping – what about the thing with the shark – OMG – not sure I’d want a shark to try and eat me during, ahem, you know!  Talk about coitus interruptus.

4. Mal has noted twice that they don’t have much time, and she apologises to Caleb while he sleeps on the ocean. Then Alaxic kills himself and tries to kill Temoc – the last two priests of the old Quechal. What do you think is going on here? Any speculation about how it might turn out?

Well, it just makes me think that Mal and Alaxic are working together – which okay I’m just being daft as clearly she was revealed as working with Alaxic at the contract signing – I think that was the first major indication for me that Mal wasn’t all she seemed though.  I don’t understand though why Alaxic would try to kill them both.  Maybe he thinks that Temoc will be able to thwart whatever plans are afoot.

I can’t wait to see how this ends and looking forward to all the discussion this week.

Two Serpents Rising by Max Gladstone readalong week 2

Today is the second instalment of our Two Serpents Rising readalong.  The full details can be found here.  If you want to take part then there’s still time.  Just leave a comment.

This week is being hosted by the lovely Lisa from Over the Effing Rainbow.

The Q&A are below and please beware of spoilers.

1)  So we’re halfway in, and we seem to have uncovered the culprit already… What did you make of the confrontation at Seven Leaf?

I sort of have mixed feelings here and I’m not sure why but I’ve left it for a while in order to reflect and all I can come up with is that I was a bit underwhelmed with the confrontation.  I don’t really know why.  It wasn’t the writing but I felt like it was a very quick confrontation and for some reason it didn’t create any tension for me personally and it didn’t feel like there was ever a real threat involved.  The only thing I can come up with is that the whole thing was a set up for something else which maybe hasn’t occurred yet or maybe it was a way of raising a number of different issues about Mal and Caleb – such as the fact that Caleb isn’t totally defenceless or the whole issue with Mal and her ideas around atonement.  I certainly didn’t see that coming.  It was good that they both worked together though and let’s face it Mal couldn’t have succeeded without Caleb’s help.

2)  Temoc is still turning up at random, and still protesting his innocence. Doth he protest too much…?

I think you could be forgiven for thinking he protests too much but somehow I believe him.  And now I’ve said that I’ve no doubt I’ll be immediately proven wrong but I don’t dislike him somehow.  He’s clearly not perfect but he doesn’t give me the creeps.

3)  The Red King. Discuss.

This guy could easily give you the creeps but again, at the moment, I’m a little on the fence with him.  There’s something about him that I can’t quite put my finger on yet.  I’m puzzled about him sending Caleb on the mission to Seven Leaf with Mal.  Does he mistrust both of them?  I wonder if he knows more about Caleb’s original withholding of information about Mal or maybe he just suspects something because they’ve come out about being in a relationship.  It does feel like he’s testing Caleb.

4)  And let’s not forget Mal! I confess, I did not see any of those surprises coming. What do you think of Caleb’s ‘sweetheart’ now?

She certainly has a lot of tricks up her sleeve.  I’m really enjoying the way theyre both ‘pinging’ off each other and even though this ‘romantic’ element isn’t the main focus for the story I’m really enjoying the way it’s being included.  There is definitely a lot of electricity between the two – and a lot of secrets.  Mal’s part in brokering the deal and testing out the security at the water plant – not sure what to make of that yet.  Can we trust her?  I think that’s the main question really.  She originally made out that she was simply out to get a bit of a rush with her extreme sporting – but that wasn’t really true.  Then again, she wasn’t involved with Caleb at the time – I wonder whether her feelings for him are going to interfere with things for her one way or another.  It’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out.  Part of me really wants everything to go okay and part of me wonders whether Mal has a different agenda of her own.

You have to love the creativity of Max Gladstone.  He comes up with such a lot of unusual concepts.  I love the ways of getting about in this one – particularly the flying.  And, more particularly, the huge dragonfly like creatures that clasp onto your back and carry you – whilst sucking out a little of your soul.  Yeah, you’d want to be careful about just how long your journey was!

That’s it for me.

This is the schedule if you’re interested in jumping on board:

1st Post Date: April 13th Book 1: chapter 1-Interlude: Fire, hosted by Dab of Darkness

2nd Post Date: April 20th Book 2: chapter 16-Interlude: Dreams, hosted by Over the Effing Rainbow

3rd Post Date: April 27th Book 3: chapter 29-Interlude: Tea, Hosted by Violin in a Void

4th Post Date: May 4th Book 4: chapter 36-Epilogue, hosted by Little Lion Lynnet’s 

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