Time Was
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 disparate timelines overlap.

Time Was Details

TitleTime Was
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseApr 24th, 2018
PublisherTor.com
Rating
GenreScience Fiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, Time Travel, Lgbt

Time Was Review

  • Elise (TheBookishActress)
    January 1, 1970
    2 1/2 stars. This book… is not its blurb, and I am disappointed by that.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 2 1/2 stars. This book… is not its blurb, and I am disappointed by that.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.[I actually think I understand this blurb more than I understand this book.] Okay. So Time Was is marketed as a love story across time. It is not. This is a 70-page manifesto of a modern-day historian and a sort of testimonial as to how this character discovered these two lovers were time travelers. Which is fine as a mystery / suspense premise. But as a book marketed as an angsty-in-a-good-way, speculative-fiction-y romance? Really disappointing. Because, really, I am just disappointed in the idea of this as a romance book. There are short pov chapters from Tom and Ben, but their romance is - don’t kill me - pretty bland. And the ending.... hm. Okay, very real spoilers ahead:(view spoiler)[Ben dies. Under incredibly confusing circumstances. But really, can’t even have the gays as the focal point and now you want to get away with burying them? Nah. (hide spoiler)]Like... I'm not crazy here, right? This does feel kind of distasteful, right?Perhaps even more confusing, given this blurb, is half the book being buildup to the reveal that, wow, those two mysterious lovers from World War II were - wait for it - T I M E T R A V E L E R S! New discourse: maybe the blurb writer didn't do their job. I don’t know, dudes. I feel bad because I think this is actually a well-written book and I found it somewhat interesting, but I just didn’t feel a single emotion about this whole book the whole time. Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Youtube
    more
  • Bradley
    January 1, 1970
    Time to manage our expectations here.I'm a fan of Ian's work and I'm generally amazed by the amount of research he puts into his novels, twisting strange stories into very creative manifestos, and there's a bit of that coming through the pages here, too, but it begs the question:What is this?It is a love story only if you see it through the lens of a mystery fan first, a time-paradox sleuth second, and if you like a REALLY slow burn through a deep focus on poetry and old personal notebooks from Time to manage our expectations here.I'm a fan of Ian's work and I'm generally amazed by the amount of research he puts into his novels, twisting strange stories into very creative manifestos, and there's a bit of that coming through the pages here, too, but it begs the question:What is this?It is a love story only if you see it through the lens of a mystery fan first, a time-paradox sleuth second, and if you like a REALLY slow burn through a deep focus on poetry and old personal notebooks from the PoV of a bibliophile in hunt of the central mystery.It's not bad and the questions raised do drag us to the inevitable end, but this is a very niche piece. History buffs, bibliophiles, and SF mystery fans who don't mind a slow burn that leads to a somewhat odd end in this thankfully short work will probably get a lot out of this.But for me? It was fine. Okay. But not my favorite of his by a long shot.Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!
    more
  • destiny ☠ howling libraries
    January 1, 1970
    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 lo 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!You can find this review and more on my blog, or you can follow me on twitter, bookstagram, or facebook!
    more
  • Lauren Stoolfire
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.During World War II, Tom and Ben were brought together by a secret project designed to hide British targets from German radar. The two had to kept their growing love for one another secret. When the project they were assigned to went wrong, Tom and Ben vanished and were never seen again, presumed to be dead. Now they are lost in time, searching for one another by leaving clues in books - hoping to make their timelines overlap in o I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.During World War II, Tom and Ben were brought together by a secret project designed to hide British targets from German radar. The two had to kept their growing love for one another secret. When the project they were assigned to went wrong, Tom and Ben vanished and were never seen again, presumed to be dead. Now they are lost in time, searching for one another by leaving clues in books - hoping to make their timelines overlap in order to be together again.I'm a sucker for a good time travel story and Time Was by Ian McDonald sounded exactly like the novella for me. Unfortunately, after I completed the story I felt like I'd been duped because the story is described as a WWII time travel love story, but really it's about pretentious book-loving historian who happens to find some of Ben and Tom's correspondences and begins to put their story together. We do get a handful of short POV chapters from our time travelers perspectives but not nearly enough to really care about their story at all, no matter how much I wanted to become hooked. Plus, I hate to say it, but Tom and Ben were actually on the dull side.Overall, I love the idea of Time Was, but I was underwhelmed by the execution. The storytelling begins to get more disjointed and disconnected the further you go along and we don't get nearly enough time with the cast to become invested in their stories. I think I would have preferred to have followed Ben and Tom's storylines directly without the historian framing their tale. Unfortunately, Ian McDonald's newest release just wasn't for me although there's plenty of potential. Thanks anyway, NetGalley.
    more
  • Natasha
    January 1, 1970
    Review also on my blog • Twitter • BookstagramRep: m/m romanceContent warnings: warArc sent to me by publisher in exchange for a free and honest reviewThis was is... complicated, that's one way to put it. Here's my main problem with the book, it somehow made this incredibly gay premise far less gay. If the premise is a perfect 10, then this was a 3 at best. If you've read The Great Gatsby you'd know one of the worst parts of it was that it was told from the pov of some random dude who didn't exp Review also on my blog • Twitter • BookstagramRep: m/m romanceContent warnings: warArc sent to me by publisher in exchange for a free and honest reviewThis was is... complicated, that's one way to put it. Here's my main problem with the book, it somehow made this incredibly gay premise far less gay. If the premise is a perfect 10, then this was a 3 at best. If you've read The Great Gatsby you'd know one of the worst parts of it was that it was told from the pov of some random dude who didn't experience, he just observed. That was this book. And it was also really goddamn confusing. I can't say for sure if this was told in multiple perspectives because not even the book really makes that clear, because it's told in first person. I don't like the kind of books that makes perspectives so confusing it doesn't make sense until you're like half way through the book. And again, I can't even say for sure it was multiple perspectives, it not being that wouldn't make much sense though. So I was left in utter confusion for most of the book.The writing I can say was strong. I did like it for the most part, and maybe I'll reread the book and it'll make more sense to me. The plot was just executed strangely, partially because of a misleading premise and partially because of how it's written. If you're a big fan of surrealism, I'd suggest picking it up if you're okay with outside perspective books.
    more
  • Annie (Diverse Reads)
    January 1, 1970
    Please note that this book uses the Bury Your Gays trope.
  • Lisa Wolf
    January 1, 1970
    Time Was is a haunting, lovely story of love and loss, war and suffering. It's also a bookish mystery of sorts, all served up in a compact 176 pages.The framing of the device revolves around a man named Emmett, a book dealer who surrounds himself with stacks of archaic volumes and keeps himself housed and fed through his EBay sales. When he's sorting through the book-filled dumpster outside yet another failed rare book store, he comes across what he thinks may be a valuable find -- an odd little Time Was is a haunting, lovely story of love and loss, war and suffering. It's also a bookish mystery of sorts, all served up in a compact 176 pages.The framing of the device revolves around a man named Emmett, a book dealer who surrounds himself with stacks of archaic volumes and keeps himself housed and fed through his EBay sales. When he's sorting through the book-filled dumpster outside yet another failed rare book store, he comes across what he thinks may be a valuable find -- an odd little book of poetry, with an "inclusion" -- a letter tucked inside. Both are clearly old, and could be worth quite a lot to a collector.But as Emmett reads the letter, he realizes there's more to the story. The letter is between two WWII soldiers, Tom and Ben, and it's clearly a love letter. But there's something strange about it too, and Emmett decides to try to find out more. He tracks down another person with artifacts related to Tom and Ben, but these are from World War I. And photos show young men who don't appear to have aged. Are they some sort of immortals? Is it all a joke? How can this be?Emmett becomes obsessed with finding out more about Tom and Ben, and meanwhile, we see bits and pieces narrated by them as well, as we learn of their meeting during World War II and the top-secret experiment that Ben is involved in. As Emmett discovers, it would appear that something -- something inexplicable -- happened, and the two have become unmoored in time, using notes tucked into copies of this unusual poetry book, to find one another again and again and again.At first, it's hard to see how it all fits together, and yet it works. The writing builds a sense of wonder, informed by a deep, passionate love that keeps Tom and Ben forever seeking and sometimes finding one another, no matter where in time they end up. It's lovely and mysterious, and unlike anything I've read lately. I do love a good time travel story, when done well, and Time Was is done very well indeed.The best types of time travel books make me feel like starting over again once I've reached the last page, so I can go back and see the chronological displacements and events out of order for what they truly are, catching the hints and clues I missed the first time around. Time Was is one of those books.Highly recommended. It's a fast, absorbing, and deeply touching story. I only wish we could have spent more time with Tom and Ben. There's a tragic undertone to every moment they're together, and I'd like to think they had plenty of happiness along the way as well. If you measure the success of a story by how much the reader comes to care about the characters, then I'd say this one is absolutely a success.Note: Review copy provided by the publisher via Netgalley. This review also appears at Bookshelf Fantasies.
    more
  • Xavi
    January 1, 1970
    Me ha gustado más de lo que esperaba al principio después de los primeros capítulos, pero no ofrece lo que promete en la sinopsis.
  • Abi Walton
    January 1, 1970
    2.5 stars. I wasn't expecting this story from the blurb and to be honest the blurb sounded so much better. It is really about a historian who finds out about these two men Ben and Tom who time travel but this is second to the life of Emmett which was a shame as I didn't find Emette's story nearly as captivating as I wanted to. Ben and Tom weren't the focal points which was a shame as this was the reason why I wanted to read this book. I felt really lost while reading this novella and the POV was 2.5 stars. I wasn't expecting this story from the blurb and to be honest the blurb sounded so much better. It is really about a historian who finds out about these two men Ben and Tom who time travel but this is second to the life of Emmett which was a shame as I didn't find Emette's story nearly as captivating as I wanted to. Ben and Tom weren't the focal points which was a shame as this was the reason why I wanted to read this book. I felt really lost while reading this novella and the POV was confusing. Overall disappointing read but I really like the cover.
    more
  • Annie
    January 1, 1970
    A good find at a used book sale might be a copy of a book that was missing from a series, a first edition, or a signed first edition. Emmett, the protagonist of Time Was by Ian McDonald, is hoping for good hardbacks about World War II to sell online when he visits the closing sale of the Golden Page in London. Instead, he accidentally acquires a mysterious collection of poetry that leads him down a deep research rabbit hole and into an even stranger story of love and weird science...Read the res A good find at a used book sale might be a copy of a book that was missing from a series, a first edition, or a signed first edition. Emmett, the protagonist of Time Was by Ian McDonald, is hoping for good hardbacks about World War II to sell online when he visits the closing sale of the Golden Page in London. Instead, he accidentally acquires a mysterious collection of poetry that leads him down a deep research rabbit hole and into an even stranger story of love and weird science...Read the rest of my review at A Bookish Type. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.
    more
  • Daniel
    January 1, 1970
    !!!THIS IS NOT A ROMANCE!!! This is not about a gay couple. The book description IS A LIE. Whichever asshole at TOR wrote the cover copy should be fired. They should be on trial for crimes against Story. They may have sold a few extra copies, but they have done a huge disservice to this book, which is a damn fine book in its own right, by ensuring a huge chunk of readers who do pick it up will be very disappointed with the book they actually got.This is like the canadian bacon of fiction. Ham is !!!THIS IS NOT A ROMANCE!!! This is not about a gay couple. The book description IS A LIE. Whichever asshole at TOR wrote the cover copy should be fired. They should be on trial for crimes against Story. They may have sold a few extra copies, but they have done a huge disservice to this book, which is a damn fine book in its own right, by ensuring a huge chunk of readers who do pick it up will be very disappointed with the book they actually got.This is like the canadian bacon of fiction. Ham is fucking delicious. I love ham. If you said, "would you like some ham?" I'd be, "Yes! Thank you!" and be very happy. But if instead you said, "would you like some bacon?" and gave me ham, I'd be, "the fuck is this shit? where's the fucking bacon?" The experience of perfectly delicious ham, ruined, because you're a fucking liar.I'd love to read the book that copy describes, but this is not that book. This book is not about Tom and Ben, it's about a used book dealer who finds a letter from Tom to Ben tucked inside a book and becomes obsessed. Based on what we're told he's not even gay.BUT... Now that we've got that out of the way, let me say that this is a a DAMN GOOD book.Fortunately, I've read Ian McDonald before, and I caught some of the disappointed reviews of the advance readers, so I went into this with an idea what I was really getting, and I LOVED IT.I wish I could give you a proper description for this book. It's very easy to talk about what it's not, but I feel like saying too much about what it actually is might spoil the pleasure a bit. A lot of the pleasure here is in discovery, learning along with the narrator. But I'll say what I can.A used book dealer who specializes in World War II books stumbles across a love letter between two men written during the war. He tries to trace the men, and with a little help ends up finding photos of the couple that shouldn't be possible. Given who Ian McDonald you shouldn't be surprised there are scifi elements here. I was going to be more specific about those elements, but I've changed my mind.Make no mistake, the book dealer is our main character, it's his point of view. The book has romantic elements in the story of Tom and Ben, and our narrator's obsession, but it's more the tragic, sad sort of romantic, and absolutely NOT romance. There's no HEA for Tom and Ben, or our narrator here.I said sad there, and there is a bit of sad, but overall I didn't find it a sad sort of read for what it's worth. It's poignant, definitely not a cheery uplifting ending, but not a crying, hopeless thing either.It's just really good.
    more
  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    The provenance of a book is not new premise in literature, but Ian McDonald’s novella Time Was takes it in a wholly new and fascinating direction. Emmett is niche bookseller specializing in books of the Second World War. At the closing of a famous book store in London, he finds a slim book of poetry with a lover letter hidden away inside. He quickly sells the book, but keeps the letter.Tom the Rhymer meets Ben the boffin and fall in love at the advent of WW2. Ben is brought to a small coastal to The provenance of a book is not new premise in literature, but Ian McDonald’s novella Time Was takes it in a wholly new and fascinating direction. Emmett is niche bookseller specializing in books of the Second World War. At the closing of a famous book store in London, he finds a slim book of poetry with a lover letter hidden away inside. He quickly sells the book, but keeps the letter.Tom the Rhymer meets Ben the boffin and fall in love at the advent of WW2. Ben is brought to a small coastal town to work on a highly classified experiment for the war effort, and Tom is a local whose head is lost in verse. The results of their relationship and the experiments are intertwined in a story that reaches Emmett in contemporary London and beyond.McDonald’s writes sentences woven out of affection and care, of his subject and the words themselves. His paragraphs held time on the page, and even though I desperately wanted to find out what happened, I had to tell myself to slow down and enjoy.Please read Time Was. A tale that values representation and “quantum-magical theory.” A great tribute to love and the word.“Time was, time will be again…”Thank you to NetGalley, Mcmillan/ Tor, and Ian McDonald for the advanced copy for review.
    more
  • Kam
    January 1, 1970
    Review based on an ARC given to me for free by Tor.com Publishing. This book is slated for release on April 24.I was pretty excited to get my mitts on this. Time travel story? Cool. Time travel love story? SIGN ME RIGHT UP. Except, well... It’s not QUITE what the blurb promised it would be. This novella essentially has two storylines, but it doesn’t focus on the one I thought it would. Which is kind of sad, as I was really looking forward to reading about Ben and Tom and their trials and travail Review based on an ARC given to me for free by Tor.com Publishing. This book is slated for release on April 24.I was pretty excited to get my mitts on this. Time travel story? Cool. Time travel love story? SIGN ME RIGHT UP. Except, well... It’s not QUITE what the blurb promised it would be. This novella essentially has two storylines, but it doesn’t focus on the one I thought it would. Which is kind of sad, as I was really looking forward to reading about Ben and Tom and their trials and travails through time, but well...that’s not quite what this is about. Still, what there is of their story is lovely, and really McDonald’s prose is gorgeous - it’s just not quite the story I thought it’d be. So YMMV folks, just saying.
    more
  • Lauren James
    January 1, 1970
    Short but packs a mighty punch. This novella follows a historian’s attempts to track down time-crossed lovers Tom and Ben from their appearances in photos and videos across wars through history. Very The Last Beginning, so I loved it.
  • Marie
    January 1, 1970
    blurb bait and switchalso one half of the gay couple dies
Write a review