Published by Tor.com on May 7, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.
Seanan McGuire’s latest novel Middlegame is a very ambitious novel. It reads like equal parts science fiction and fantasy, and is a wild ride from start to finish. It features twins separated at birth who somehow have the ability to telepathically communicate with one another, as well a man who wants to use the twins to help him carry out his ambitious and perhaps delusional plan to become a god and control the universe. If that isn’t enough to pique your curiosity, Middlegame also features alchemy, time loops, and its fair share of ruthless killers.
This was my first time reading one of McGuire’s novels, but after seeing so many stellar reviews for the author’s Wayward Children series, I fully expected to love Middlegame. That said, however, I unfortunately didn’t love it nearly as much as I was expecting to. I can’t put my finger on exactly why it wasn’t a great read, but part of it was because I just felt like I had to work way too hard to keep everything that was going on straight in my mind. The plot is very complicated and twisty, and then time starts to twist as well, which made everything all the more complicated, and at a certain point, my brain just screamed “Enough!” On top of that, I felt like the pacing was slow in places which didn’t help since the book is over 500 pages long.
That said, however, even though I didn’t love the read because it confused me a few too many times for my liking, there were quite a few things I did enjoy.
I love how wild and original the overall concept of the novel is. On one level, it reminds me of Frankenstein, with James Reed using his alchemical skills to create children that can help him achieve his goal. His actions and motivations are unnatural and more than a little creepy, but yet fascinating at the same time. On another level though, Middlegame reminds me of nothing I’ve ever read before. The idea of this Doctrine of Ethos being the key to controlling the Universe and that Reed can somehow harness its power and become a God if he places half of the doctrine in each child just blew my mind. Reed was a disturbing yet almost mesmerizing character just because he’s so passionate that his goal is 100% achievable and is clearly totally okay with the idea of using his homemade children as science experiments and with eliminating anyone or anything that happens to get in his way.
While I found Reed completely disturbing, I found the other main characters, twins Roger and Dodger, quite endearing, especially the connection they shared. The implanting of half the Ethos Doctrine in each of them has left Roger as a master of all language and communication, while Dodger is an absolute genius at math. There is literally no math problem she can’t solve. Put them together and they’re pretty much unstoppable. As soon as they are “born,” Reed separates them. He has several sets of twins that he’s experimenting with so this “separation” variable is specific to Roger and Dodger’s experiment. Except that they somehow manage to connect telepathically even though they live thousands of miles apart. No matter how many times they get re-separated, they manage to find each other again.
Even though I felt frustrated and confused sometimes by everything that was going on in Middlegame, that bond between Roger and Dodger is what really kept me turning the pages. I was just so invested in them and ultimately wanted them to realize they were pawns in Reed’s deadly game and somehow turn the tables on him and stop the madness.
While Middlegame wasn’t a book that I loved, I did enjoy the read overall and would definitely recommend it to fans of science fiction and really to anyone who enjoys a wild and twisty read that makes you put on your thinking cap. It has also intrigued me enough about McGuire’s unique brand of storytelling that I definitely plan to read the Wayward Children series.
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.
I’m getting ready to start this book soon so I love seeing reviews. I can understand why this didn’t quite work for you, it sounds REALLY ambitious. Still, I’m looking forward to meeting Roger and Dodger😁
Tammy @ Books, Bones & Buffy recently posted…THE WITCH’S KIND by Louisa Morgan – Review
I’m curious to see what you think of it. It’s one that I could see myself going back to read to see if I appreciate it more the second time around.
I enjoyed this one more than you, but having said that, I am not sure this was the best first book of hers to try.
I agree. I have Every Heart a Doorway on my Kindle so I want to read that and see what I think. I have a feeling that will be more to my liking.
This definitely sounds really unique, but like it has too much going on? I find I have so little patience lately for when stories get too complicated.
It definitely has a lot going on, and yeah, I just got really impatient with trying to keep it all straight as I was reading.
I was curious about this one, sorry it didn’t work for you. I am currently listening to one of her novellas and meh
Lily recently posted…Review: Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly
I want to try another one of her books to see if they’re a better fit for me than this one was.
I knew as soon as I read the blurb for this book that it wasn’t for me. And while I tried her Wayward Children series, that wasn’t for me, either. I do think that this author is so versatile in what she writes that she has something for almost everyone. I did read Sparrow Hill Road from this author, and I loved it!
I hope you find something from this author that you enjoy more!
Angie Elle recently posted…ARC Review | Finale by Stephanie Garber
Thanks, I hope I do too. I have Every Heart a Doorway on my kindle now so that will be my next read from her.
I’m sorry this wasn’t as wonderful as you’d hoped Suzanne. I’ve read her other work and loved it, so I hope you enjoy the Wayward Children books!
verushka recently posted…#5Books: Book recs and #ALLDAYYA at the Sydney Writers Festival
I hope I will too. I have Every Heart a Doorway on my kindle now and really want to read it soon.
Honestly the confusion and the slow parts makes this seem like it might not be one for me. But it does have a cool premise, especially since you said it reminded you of Frankenstein. Reed sounds intriguing. I love reading books about close siblings and twins. So I’m still on the fence about this one and may give it a shot at some point!
Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight recently posted…Book Review: Trail of Lightning (The Sixth World Book 1) by Rebecca Roanhorse
Yes, it really does have an awesome premise. I could see myself revisiting this one at some point just to see if I appreciate it more with a second reading.