Time Was — Ian McDonald (ARC Review)

Time Was


TITLE: Time Was

AUTHOR: Ian McDonald

RELEASES: April 24th, 2018; Tor.com

GENRE: Science Fiction/Historical Fiction


SYNOPSIS: A love story stitched across time and war, shaped by the power of books, and ultimately destroyed by it.

In the heart of World War II, Tom and Ben became lovers. Brought together by a secret project designed to hide British targets from German radar, the two founded a love that could not be revealed. When the project went wrong, Tom and Ben vanished into nothingness, presumed dead. Their bodies were never found.

Now the two are lost in time, hunting each other across decades, leaving clues in books of poetry and trying to make their desperate timelines overlap.


When I was sent an ARC of this novella by the publisher, I had never heard of the book (or author) before, but was incredibly eager to check it out once I learned it was being marketed as a hist-fic/sci-fi mashup with a sweet m/m romance! I honestly had no doubts that I would enjoy this novella, and if I were to base it just upon the writing itself – which is rather lovely – this rating would certainly be higher!

Unfortunately, I had two major problems with this novella:

1) I felt so incredibly lost while reading it. I honestly worried at one point that it was just me, but after looking at other reviews of this book, I feel confident when I say that this is a surprisingly difficult story to follow. It feels disjointed and non-linear in a disconcerting manner, which made it a bit of a chore to trudge through, despite having an interest foundation.

2) Perhaps the blurb on this book is misleading, or maybe it’s my fault for having unfair expectations, but I was anticipating a story of two time traveling lovers trying to find one another through notes left in poetry books – not the recounting of a book-loving historian who keeps finding pieces of their letters and tries to connect the dots through those correspondences. While it’s an interesting way to tell the story, I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been what I expected, as it probably would’ve allowed me to emotionally connect to the characters and story more.

All in all, it’s a unique book, and if it sounds like something you’re interested in, I would definitely give it a try, but I don’t think I was exactly the right audience for this novella.

Thank you to Tor.com for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review!




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Just a 26-year-old children's librarian trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

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