Master fantasist Seanan McGuire introduces readers to an America run in the shadows by the Alchemical Congress, a powerful society focused on transmuting reality itself.
Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.
Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.
Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.
Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.
Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.
- ISBN10 1250195527
- ISBN13 9781250195524
- Publish Date 1 June 2019 (first published 7 May 2019)
- Publish Status Active
- Publish Country US
- Imprint Tor Books
- Format Hardcover
- Pages 528
- Language English
Well Holy Mother of the Science Fiction/ Fantasy Gods !
THIS WAS... I don't even have a word or groupings of words to describe what this was at the moment? My mind is still melting, i'm just now remembering to blink again, and oh, yeah, i've finally gotten around to lifting my jaw back to its upright & locked position. Needless to say, I am in some major need of a glass of water, some eyedrops, & to rest my brain for a bit because just... WO-OWWWW, Whew! This book truly was one hell of a crazy, truly transportive & immersive, 'Um, is the fabric of reality is tearing right now, or is it just me?!' kind of journey!
Seanan McGuire does it once again, folks.
Review originally posted at BooksOfMyHeart.net.
I have never read a book by Seanan McGuire, but I have read a lot of books by her other pen name, Mira Grant. I wasn’t sure going into this book what to expect. I’ve read some authors with multiple pen names that have a different style with each pen name and with Grant, she’s more horror and McGuire always seemed more fantasy. And I have a tendency to go into books blind. I believe I did read the blurb for this book, but didn’t remember what it was when I finally got around to getting this from the library, so I was doubly not sure what to expect.
So this story revolves around twins Roger and Dodger. They were created by alchemists. Roger is a great linguist, and Dodger gives “math wiz” new meaning. They were separated at birth and raised by adoptive parents on opposite sides of the United States. They aren’t told about each other and how they are different from other children. But they connect anyway in a very unusual way, mind to mind. The story also follows the alchemists who created them. It takes place from before Roger and Dodger are born and goes on throughout their lives with some larger gaps at times.
This is a very weird story, and I’m not gonna lie and tell you that you will love it. I will say, you will probably really enjoy it or not like it. I can’t imagine there will be a lot in between. What I can tell you, is that just like with her Mira Grant books, this story has very well developed characters. Whether writing as Grant or McGuire, it appears she’s able to write characters you’ll love to love and those you’ll love to hate. It seems to be a theme across every story I’ve read from this author, which will keep bringing me back to her work.
I also want to mention my love of Dodger’s love of Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park. She loves Ian Malcom and his love of chaos theory. I just loved that reference in the story. If you followed my reviews, you know how much I love pop culture references. This one is a favorite, which I love Ian Malcom too. This is a quote that I’ve been feeling a lot lately, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Narration (4.5 stars)
This is not my first time listening to Amber Benson. I listened to her perform Head On (Locked In #2) by John Scalzi (which was a weird listening experience because the main character of that series could be either a man or a woman, there is nothing to tell you in the book). I originally listened to Wil Wheaton perform the first book, Lock In. and I had a hard change to the female narration for this character. I could tell she was a great narrator when I listened, but just didn’t vibe with that book because Benson read a woman and Wheaton as a man. Anyway, I had zero issues with her on this book. I would highly recommend her narration for any book (I think I would’ve loved her for the Locked In series if I had started with her, instead of Wheaton).
Thank you to Netgalley and Tor for a review copy!
What a bizarre read, and one that I don't think I can properly summarize without some level of confusion either by me or for you. However, I do think this will be a book that on some level is going to be a hard sell for most. It's not a bad read, it's just...confusing in an odd way that makes sense once you understand the shape of it but it's hard to really see that shape until you've made your way into the meat of the story itself. It reads a bit like a children's fable, fittingly like a slightly more logical Wizard of Oz and Wonderland, and like those stories, there is an edge to it that makes it something else entirely.
I seriously love the ideas that were at play here, and I love the complicated way that McGuire chose to express those ideas. It does make it hard to approach, hard to sink into, but the end result is something that stands out as completely unique. The only book I can think of that has some grain of similarity in terms of actual storyline and scope is The Library at Mount Char.
I'm definitely curious to see where this story leads us, and what more McGuire has to share about this version of our world she has given us.
This book has an excellent first 30% or so, driven by an interesting premise and McGuire's memorable writing. But it suffers from a lack of clarity/motive in the plot, with a very unsatisfying final arc. It was all just all very muddled for me without any decent payoff.
Middlegame is a new fantasy / SF novel with some horror elements by Seanan McGuire. Released 7th May 2019 by Tor, it's a whopping 528 pages and available in hardcover, ebook, and audio formats. Paperback format presumably to be released at a later date.
I have read and enjoyed the author's Wayward Children series, so I was quite looking forward to this one as well. It's a standalone novel with a lot of interwoven plot-lines which orbit around the central theme of alchemical immortality. The science based magic system is creative and well designed. I was frustrated that the reader is basically just dropped in the middle of the plot and left to puzzle out and interpret the underlying mechanics themselves. There are quite a number of plot elements which are never fully explained and are left to the readers' interpretation.
There are some horrifying and potentially triggering elements. The experiments (matching pairs of psychically linked babies) are manipulated and planted like cuckoos into adoptive homes. They grow up unaware of what they are. The main plot elements revolve around one such pair Roger and Dodger.
The language is fairly rough, but generally speaking no more so than a lot of modern fiction. There are some discussions of suicide and self-harmwhich could be triggering for some readers.
The author is undeniably a gifted writer. The dialogue and plotting are well done. Whilst reading the book, I felt at the time that the book was a few hundred pages too long, but now after I've finished it, I can't see many places where it could have been trimmed down without significantly impacting the plot development and eventual denouement. It's a 'meaty' book.
Three and a half stars. It's a worthwhile read, but a significant investment in reading time.
Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
Middlegame is a brilliantly written novel, full of alchemy and human nature. The combination of which results in a fascinating tale. The story itself follows two siblings, Roger and Dodger, and their unbelievable journey through time.
There was a lot to love about this novel, and therefore a lot for me to gush about. So I’m just going to make an attempt to summarize it here; Middlegame was perfection. It had this fantastical blend of science fiction and fantasy, courtesy of the alchemy focus. And it had a beautiful representation of the love and dedication between siblings. Granted, Roger and Dodger are so much more than that. I loved every minute of this book, and wish I could reset my timeline so I could read it all over again for the first time.
Warnings: Seanan McGuire has never been one to shy aware from the harder facts of life. And Middlegame covers a lot of that. Therefore there are intense subjects like child abuse and murder, self-injury and a suicide attempt. All of these subjects are relevant to the plot, and McGuire handles them very delicately and respectfully.
Another side note, before I begin my review: No matter what happens in this novel, I promise you that Bill, the fat and lovable cat, is completely fine. Nothing happens to him, and he is safe and sound at the end of the novel. This is a promise. So go ahead and read with that peace of mind.
Middlegame was an absolutely amazing read. Every twist and turn held me captivated. My only regret about this novel is that I’ve finished reading it. I suspect a reread will be in my near future.
So confession time; while I’ve been really looking forward to Middlegame, I’ve done everything in my power to keep my head in the sand about this book. I avoided early reviews, skipped the five chapter excerpt (though I was VERY tempted by it), and only read the briefest of descriptions. I tend to do this with author’s I love, because I trust that I’ll enjoy their works. In this case I wanted to go into it with as fresh of a mind as possible, with few expectations.
I did know a few things. I knew about Roger and Dodger. And I knew about their creator. I also knew that any book that had a hand of glory on the cover had to be good.
And I have to say, I was completely blown away. This novel was so much more than I had hoped for – and I had seen comparisons to the Wayward Children series. Meaning that despite my best efforts, I had exceptionally high expectations about this book.
The story of Roger and Dodger was brilliantly written. From the way they were created all the way to the why of it all. It was fascinating to see these two characters come together again and again, despite all the efforts made to keep them apart. It was actually quite beautiful, in its own way.
Their characters were so human and yet so extraordinary. I loved the balance between the two characters. Who got which part of the Doctrine, and what exactly that meant. More so, I loved the flaws that came with them. Both children had flaws, and that’s what made them feel so real, so human.
I’ll confess that their journey broke my heart at times. But that’s a good thing. Their journey had to be a difficult one, or it never would have had the same impact. And trust me, there was impact. Middlegame managed to stick itself into my brain in a way that a book hasn’t done in years. It was wonderful, even when things were at their worst for our characters.
The alchemy in this novel was pretty spectacular as well. As far as reasons for the plot go, it was absolutely necessary. I loved the intricate nature of it all; from the way they created and studied their subjects, to the politics they were trying to break. It was brilliant.
There are a lot of other elements I could focus on, but I feel like I shouldn’t mention a lot of them for sake of spoilers. I will say that I loved the time elements of this novel. Actually, I liked that element quite a lot more than I expected to.
Middlegame was an amazing novel, and I swear it’s not just my biases showing when I say that. It was radiantly written, full of expert world building and fascinating characters. I honestly couldn’t have asked for more. Though I will say again that I wish I could read this novel again for the first time. Perhaps a reset is in order?
For more reviews check out Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks
The tale started out slowly for me even though the first chapter, Failure, grabbed me. But as we learned about Asphodel Baker, the Doctrines of Ethos, the Alchemical Congress and the creation of James Reed I found myself sucked down the rabbit hole.
Roger and Dodger are twins, born in a lab, and separated at birth. At age seven they make contact telepathically. The tale that unfolds was brilliant, ambitious and addictive.
McGuire entertains with a complex tale and makes you ponder, dream and explore. I loved Roger and Dodger. While they aren't quite human, they haven't quite become. It was intense as Reed and his creepy sidekicks worked to keep these two separated until it was time for them to manifest.
I loved the use of twins and the connection they share. Both are unique individuals. She is obsessed with math, he with the written word and languages. This is a story that one can read again and again, picking up different things each time.
Be warned there are dark, sometimes grizzly moments. You will witness a murder and death. But, with darkness comes light. McGuire takes up her magic pen and brings the path to the Impossible City to life. Math and Words leapt from the page delighting me at every turn.
Secondary characters become unexpected heroes and others like Leigh will long give you nightmares.
Middlegame was brilliant, complex, simplistic and poignant. But those descriptions only scratched the surface of this brilliant novel.
This review was originally posted at Caffeinated Reviewer
I have a lot of feelings about this book, and I bounced back and forth a lot about whether or not I enjoyed it. Middlegame is a really smart book, filled with impressive research. Asphodel Baker wanted to change the world by taking humanity to the Impossible City and giving us a utopia… but her successor, Reed, wants to use the Impossible City to rule the world. Reed has spent his career engineering twins to embody the doctrine. When he loses control of the one set of “cuckoos”, he sends his executioner out to solve the problem, but Roger and Dodger are already beginning to manifest….
The alchemical discussions and philosophy in Middlegame are impressive. I like smart books, books that challenge the way I think and make me want to research things just to keep up with them. I also appreciate the way Seanan McGuire weaves contemporary and science fiction together so comfortably. Middlegame is a dystopia in the making, which is something you don’t see a lot. As a reader, I find a lot of post-apocalyptic dystopias, but you usually don’t get to see the fall of society, and Middlegame reeks of that event.
For as fascinating as I thought the concept was, I had a little bit of difficulty with some of the fundamental elements. First of all, the pacing is excruciatingly slow. This is a 500+ page book that could have been done in under 400 pages. I may be a minority here, but I don’t think the pace improved the suspense. There were little scenes and conversation that may have enriched the world, but didn’t do anything for the story. I felt like the heart of the story here was with Roger and Dodger, so scenes with Reed felt unnecessary. That said, I thought checking in with Leigh was good – it offered balance. Has anyone seen Westworld? I’m talking the 1973 film here, not the HBO show. Every once and a while, the scene cuts Yul Brenner’s character as he stalks his prey across the complex. You feel the tension there, that the hunter is closing in. Leigh’s scenes felt like that, especially near the end. I liked how McGuire used those shifts to add suspense.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say most people are not familiar with The Midwich Cuckoos. I know I wasn’t – this paperback horror novel is referenced constantly in Middlegame. Fortunately, the knowledge I needed was easy enough to Google, but the reliance on this pop culture reference to explain away one of the central elements of the story grated a little. All that said, it was quick and easy research. There’s also edges of Frankenstein in some aspects, but these are really just edges and I think the legend of Frankenstein’s Monster are culturally well-known and shouldn’t throw anyone.
For myself, I find the concept of alchemy fascinating… but. I can see where others may find this book a little odd, subject-wise. There’s easy conversation about the elements and humors. It is definitely adult fiction, though I think a mature young adult could handle it just fine. It’s a very dense novel, and while fascinating, it requires a great deal of patience. It’s very different from other things I’ve read in similar genres, and I do appreciate that facet.
It’s a fascinating novel, and I think fans of Seanan’s will enjoy it. Additionally, if you’re interested in adult dystopias, this may interest you. Also anyone interested in novels including twins and/or alchemy.
Full honesty: I requested this book based on the fact that Destiny @ Howling Libraries talks about Seanan McGuire all the time. I didn’t realize she was the same author of Feed, which I read last year. I thought that one was so smart and I loved it. Now that I know Seanan McGuire and Mira Grant are one-and-the-same, it makes a lot of sense. Both books are well-researched, interesting, and just different enough in overpopulated genres to stand out.
Mes chers, I want to tell you about this book but the publisher has asked us to withhold all reviews until within two weeks of publication. 💜 Check back at the end of April! 😉