Seanan McGuire
Middlegame Cover



In order to really be able to enjoy this novel, the reader has to be willing to concede one big "gimme": this is essentially a modern mad-scientist melodrama, and the end result of the plotting by the moustache-twirling, thinly-characterized villains is some sort of handwavy "master of the universe" power called the Doctrine of Ethos.

As a means of attaining that power, the masterminds have engaged in a breeding program of sets of twins, using various sorts of upbringing scenarios (raised together by the same parents, raised far apart by different parents, raised somewhat separately, etc) in an attempt to hit the ideal combination to achieve the nexus of power which is their goal.

The narrative jumps backward and forward in time as the reader learns more about the childhood and early adulthood of the twins Roger and Dodger, who are like the two halves of a SAT (Scholastic Aptitude/Assessment Test) -- one is fluent in mathematics and the other in languages. They have been raised completely apart and are (theoretically) unaware of each other, yet they have a sort of telepathy which keeps drawing them into each other's proximity.

While the supporting characters are pretty thinly-drawn, the twins are well-characterized, and ultimately I enjoyed reading about their coming-of-age in the author's beautifully-written but accessible prose, with plenty of plot twists as the full story unfolds in a non-linear way.

I didn't rate this story high enough to put it on my Hugo nomination ballot, but I do consider it a worthy finalist, and placed it in the middle of my final ballot.

Content Warning for descriptions of self-harm by one of the main characters, as well as plenty of murder, blood, and gore.