This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone – A Book Review

I saw this book in the “new” section at my local library and fell in love with the cover. Quite honestly, that’s the main reason I picked it up. Well, that, and the fact that it’s very short. I figured it was worth the risk because the premise sounded interesting and it wouldn’t be much of a time investment.

Unfortunately, I did not follow the vast majority of this story. The concept is that two rivals from two different entities have fallen in love with each other after exchanging letters. One entity is cybernetic in nature, the other is organic. Both entities are attempting to win a war by altering time and space throughout history. Sounds captivating, right?

I’m afraid this is a case in which the narrative style did not complement the plot very well. The authors chose to largely convey the story through the actual letters of the two rivals. The letters are enigmatic and verbose. Consequently, it proved very difficult to piecemeal the actual story, which made reading it quite a labor.

I’m sure some will love this book because of its unconventional style. Others will appreciate the diction and structure. It simply wasn’t for me.

However, I do feel that it has one of the best covers that I’ve ever seen.

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Are you in need of a new epic series? Try Dr. Nekros, a trilogy that I like to describe as Moonlighting meets The X-FilesKindle: https://amzn.to/2X3S7vO or NOOK: http://bit.ly/2JTFXm1

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Patience by Daniel Clowey

I have to admit that when NPR recommended this graphic novel, it did not seem to be something I’d enjoy.  If I’m being completely honest, I judged it by the cover, and the cover did not speak to me.

However, I found myself in a situation in which I had nothing else available to read, and so I gave it a shot.  The art immediately struck me as oversimplified.  Furthermore, the characters were initially completely unlikable while also making ample use of the “f” word.  The colors were far too bold.  In other words, it did not immediately win me over.

In the beginning, the story focuses on two adults—Patience and Jack.  They are truly in love with one another, but both are generally unsuccessful, uncouth, and somewhat rough around the edges.  Neither has made great choices in life; Patience has suffered indignation throughout her past; Jack has virtually no motivation.

Soon enough, Patience discovers she’s pregnant.  Both are elated, but both are also terrified.  They recognize the fact that they are not especially qualified to be parents, but they strive to forge ahead nonetheless.

But then Jack comes home from work to discover Patience has been murdered.

Of course, the authorities pin it on him, but he is eventually found innocent.  Jack is devastated.  His greatest loves—Patience and the unborn child—have been ripped away from him and cut out of his life.  He now has motivation.

The book next skips ahead several decades and we find Jack still searching desperately to find Patience’s killer.  Technology has evolved exponentially while society seems to have devolved.  We even have a few folks who don’t look entirely human.  Jack eventually gains the capability to time travel, and that’s when the book gets really interesting.

I won’t spoil the rest of the graphic novel, but Clowes delivers a story that kept me guessing and impressed me with its originality.  I won’t lie to you—I thought I had the ending all figured out, but Clowes managed to surprise me nonetheless.

This is a time travel story, with Jack jumping around quite a bit, and Clowes meticulously endeavors to make every event consequential to the overall plot.  Everything plays a role in this story—every action has a reaction.  That result may not be immediate, but it invariably happens.  I love the commitment to tight storytelling, I love the attention Clowes pays to time travel’s ramifications, and I love that, in the end, his unlikable characters grow into people for whom I deeply care.  Clowes also forced me to realize that they were actually the same all along—I am alone at fault for misjudging them.

On that note, the art, which I deplored at first, ultimately won me over.  Clowes lines are simple, but his anatomy and perspective are always perfect.  His panels are very straightforward, yet if you look hard enough, you find incredible detail in the little things such as books on the shelves or several doorways within the background of an apartment’s interior.  His colors are very bright in this book, as you can tell by the cover, but those bright colors work to contradict the dark tale unfolding. Perhaps those colors are simply his style, or perhaps those colors are meant to signify an eternal optimism even amidst the savagery surrounding Patience and Jack.  … I could be overthinking that one.

Be aware if you buy this book, there are brief, rather tame, moments of nudity, so you may not want to leave it sitting out for a youngster to grab hold of in the hopes of seeing Batman.  There is also a lot of profanity.

Patience surprised me.  I’ve never read anything quite like it, and it certainly struck me as completely original especially in regards to its medium.  It delivers a love story, a science fiction story, a philosophical take on time and space, a mystery, and a good old tale of revenge.  It studies a man who would do anything to save his soul mate and unborn child, a man who believes in the greater good even as he dives into the muck.  It also comments on how the past can shape the future, for better and for worse, and how sometimes we need to judge the present less harshly because of that fact.  Patience reminds us that we are all a product of what has previously transpired.

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The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger – A Book Review

A few weeks ago I was looking around for some new books to read and ran across The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  I’ll admit, the title kind of turned me off.  I liked the time travel part, but the wife part made me think that it might be a bit too sappy for my taste.  So, I read some reviews of the book, I read the back cover, and I finally gave in.  What the heck, I love The Time Machine by H.G. Wells and I love Back to the Future; in other words, I love time travel stories.  How bad could this one be?

The answer to that question is-the book is not bad at all.  In fact, I honestly would call it one of the most unpretentious and terribly complicated plots that I have ever read.  Our male lead character, Henry DeTamble, suffers from an extremely rare disease that causes him to bounce around in time whenever stressed.  Nothing can travel with him other than those things that are naturally a part of his body.  You do the math.  Henry has been doing this ever since he was a child, and as an adult he is quite adept at picking locks, hand-to-hand combat, and theft.  He must be good at these things if he wants to survive.  I’d like you to imagine yourself appearing in the middle of a city completely naked on a January night at three in the morning.  Get the idea?  Oh, and Henry’s occupation when he’s not traveling through time-a librarian.

Very quickly into the book we witness the first time that Clare meets Henry.  She is but a young child and he is well into his third decade.  In fact, it is the first time that Clare meets Henry because Henry has been married to an adult Clare for some time now.  Yes, that’s right.  He visits his wife when she is only six years old and then continues to do so until she is eighteen!  It boggles the mind, does it not?  Many philosophical questions spring to mind and I’ll leave it to you to decipher them on you own.

Henry first meets Clare, in turn, when he is twenty-eight and she is twenty.  By that time, Clare had known him for most of her life, but it was the very first time that he had ever seen her.  Well, he nearly instantly falls for her and eventually they get married.  Of course, like most married couples, they begin to attempt conceiving a child.  Imagine a child that inherits a time traveling gene that may activate whenever stressed.  Yes, a whole new premise in the story that bewilders.

Well, of course, I won’t tell you how it ends, and although it seems I’ve told you quite a bit already, I promise that I’ve spoiled nothing.  The book is roughly five hundred pages and it is written in an effective manner in which the perspective regularly shifts from Clare to Henry.  The setting also shifts quite often and Niffenegger is always careful to tell us the date and year of each new shift.  We move all the way from the late sixties to 2053 rather haphazardly.  It gives you quite a mental workout.

I highly recommend this book to both men and women.  Niffenegger has accomplished an enchanting and multifaceted novel with such success that it makes the rest of us writers feel quite inadequate.  Just like real life, Henry and Clare enjoy laughs, tears, births, deaths, pain, joy, terror, and euphoria.  With only one hundred and fifty pages left in the novel, you will not be able to put this book down.  Trust me, I was up until two-thirty in the morning finishing it.

Did I Write About This Already … Like Twenty Years Ago?

I know I just turned 31, but it’s a little too soon to be losing my mind, isn’t it?  I mean, time travel is pure theory at this point, yeah?  Because some weird things are going on which make me wonder if I’ve been thrown back into the eighties and nineties.

 

I flip on the television and I see the American Gladiators more cheezerrific than ever before.  I notice commercials for a new Knight Rider.  I’m watching a show about the Terminators and John Connor.  And over at the WWE, mullets are still riding high.  (To be honest, that’s never changed over there.)

 

Then, I go to the movies and I see Transformers, Rocky, and trailers for John Rambo.  I hear they’re making a GI Joe film.  And, because obviously nothing is sacred, a big-screen version of The A-Team is in preproduction.

 

Finally, on the political scene, there’s a Clinton trying to replace a Bush.

 

Seriously, it is 2008, right?  RIGHT?!

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go play me some Mortal Kombat.  At least they’ll never try to redo that … Wait, what’s that?  Oh, never mind.