Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar co-authored This Is How You Lose The Time-War, not exactly a Science Fiction novel.

This Is How You Lose The Time War, Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Red and Blue are representatives, spies and saboteurs of two nearly all-powerful, warring factions. They travel through time to manipulate events at critical points in history in favor of their respective factions. They are leaving each other messages, they taunt each other, and gradually earn mutual respect. Eventually they grow close to each other, and love develops.

Red’s commanding officer learns of the interaction and forces Red to leave a message to Blue that kills her. Red later fixes that “problem” by traveling into Blue’s childhood to give her immunity to the toxic message, and both escape the war by making off to elsewhere in time and space.

This is an epistolary novel, written in the form of the letters Red and Blue exchange. We only learn very gradually about the characters, their capabilties and their background, and it becomes clear that what we read is not actually the account of two humans, but rather godlike entities or avatars of forces of nature. Red and Blue over time grow close, and solve an initially unbridgeable conflict between the cultures or forces they represent at a very personal level.

This is a hard read, and if you were looking for an actual Science Fiction story, this isn’t one. Telling a story in the form of letters and having characters that are only remotely human at best is not a good vehicle to create tension, of paint a clear picture of what goes on. At multiple points the book reads more like some form of poetry as opposed a novel or regular prose. The storytelling ultimately manages to pull off a somewhat satisfactory ending, though, even if it is visible from almost the very start of the book.

Being so different and not fucking things up of course won the book a number of awards in 2019 and 2020, so there is that.