Publication date : May 7th, 2019
Publisher : Tor.com Publishing
Genre : Adult | Fantasy
Page Count: 528
Synopsis : 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. (From Goodreads)
*I received an eArc of this book from the publisher in exchange of an honest review*
CW: human experimentation, body horror, death, murder, gore, arsony, drowning, suicide attempt, self-harm.
Middlegame is the kind of story you keep thinking about and finding layers to long after you finish it. It’s the kind of story that settles in a corner of your mind and keeps poking at it, making you question everything you know about science, humanity and the universe. It’s a book that no matter what angle you look at it, whether you enjoy it or not, you can’t help but see and applaud the objective brilliance of. Because yes I am absolutely taken by this book, but even if I wasn’t, I would still be floored by the skill it took to pull off a book like this and mesmerized by the sheer brilliance of it. I went into it knowing virtually nothing -the synopsis, although, intriguing doesn’t give anything away- and I encourage you to do the same. This book is an experience.
This book starts with one of the most powerful and gripping first sentences I’ve ever read: “There is so much blood” and that immediately makes you want to know more, to know everything. It pulls you in and every sentence after that pulls you deeper until your only way out of the story is through it. I really couldn’t fathom not seeing it through til the end. The point of view here is omniscient, god like, all seeing if you will and I rarely see it well done or rarely find a story that actually needs it. But this one does. And Mcguire executes it with an artist’s precision. Middlegame jumps through time, switches timelines and perspectives but you’re never lost, you’re always following and the only times you’re truly lost is when the author wants you to be, when it’s needed for the reading experience.
Middlegame follows Dodger and Roger, silly names sure, but far from a silly story. They’re twins but don’t know it yet. They’re not quite human but don’t know it yet. They hold the world in the palms of their joined hands but don’t know it yet. Some people want them dead and guess what? They don’t know it yet. I don’t want to give out too much because like I said, that’s the best way to read this book. But this basically follows the two of them from the moment they were created by Evil Mastermind Alchemist James Reed through Alchemy, all through their lives, up to their thirties. And the two of them are at the core of the plot, they *are* the plot. They carry it, manipulate it, write it and change it to have the best outcome possible. Dodger through her way with numbers and Roger through his affinity to words and languages.
When you think about it, numbers and words control everything in the world, in the universe. And the author shows that through these two characters and Reed who wants their power to himself, to have absolute power. This explores the lengths to which people are willing to go to for the sake of power, the greed that drives them, how at some point it’s the only thing that shapes them and defines them and Reed embodies that, because all that drives him and all we know about him is his obsession with getting a hold of Roger and Dodger and getting them to bend to his will. With sitting on a throne made of corpses at the top of the world. But the two of them have a very different agenda.
Roger and Dodger are some of the most human characters I’ve ever read. The way they are explored as people as well as a unit was one of the most intriguing and compelling dynamics I’ve ever read. The love and hate between them, the pull and push, the adoration pure and raw as they go through every stage of their lives, losing touch, fighting, hurting each other, reconnecting, growing stronger just to lose touch again and realize that they truly cannot live without one another was absolutely fascinating to read. Were they codependant? Often times, yes. Was their relationship healthy? Often times, no. Did they have a choice in the matter? Absolutely fucking not.
They did their best with the hand they were dealt by their maker while knowing absolutely nothing about said hand, who they are or what they’re capable of together. I don’t think I can talk about each one of them individually because that’s how intertwined and wrapped in each other their lives were. But one thing I never doubted was their unconditional love for each other, even when they hated each other, even when they refused to be in each other’s lives. That love is the one constance in this book.
In Middlegame, Mcguire defies the limits of science and blurs the limits of science and magic. I know Alchemy isn’t a revolutionary finding here, it’s a concept as old as time but it’s so rarely explored in the context of our real world that the concept of this book was an absolute mindfuck. I kept digging and digging through the layers of the story without really getting to the end of it and I only got the full picture at the end of the story. Because it kept tangling and untangling, giving a false sense of security just to rip it from under your feet, introducing new events and theories that you, as a reader, might understand but you also get to live with the twins as they try to wrap their minds around them. And it’s so beautifully horrifying. With power comes tragedy, violence and gore and McGuire doesn’t shy away from showing those things in their most primal forms.
There is so much more to be said about this book, so much more to be explored that I could genuinely talk about it for hours, write essays about it but this review isn’t the place for that because like I said, I want every reader to experience this book the way I did, knowing nothing and finding out everything. Reveling in the sheer brilliance of the novel and mastery of the author.
That’s it until next time.
Did you read Middlegame? If so, what did you think?
Hope you enjoyed, write to you soon.