Book Review: Conviction by Denise Mina
The Tale of Two Scrappy Log Cabin Quilts, Part One: Motivation and Process

Book Review: Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

A favorite quote:
Girl nerds are in even more trouble than boy nerds, because everybody says we don’t exist, or if we do exist, it’s because we’re trying to get the boy nerds to like us. I don’t like any of the boy nerds in my school. I’m smarter than all of them, so they’re mean to me just like everybody else.

Some books are really, really hard to describe. "What are you reading?" is a question people often ask me, almost always followed by "what's it about?" (And that's actually a fairly loaded question anyway. What a book is "about" often depends on what the reader brings to the book, what her reading history is, what she needs to take from a novel, and besides, is it about the story? the characters? the place? the plot?)

MiddlegameMiddlegame​ by Seanan McGuire is even harder to explain. It's about a colorblind boy named Roger, who seems to be able to have conversations with his imaginary friend, who's named Dodger. It's also about a girl named Dodger, who is brilliant at math but not so much at language arts, who seems to be able to have conversations with her imaginary friend, Roger.

It's about an alchemist, James Reed, who is attempting to embody the theory of ethos. Actually put pieces of it into two separate bodies who, when they eventually are able to connect fully, will do...something extraordinary. 

Reed was created by another alchemist, Asphodel Baker, who wrote a series of children's novels (sort-of like the Wizard of Oz, but only slightly, and sort-of like Narnia, but not really, and while there are excerpts in the book from the children's books, I'd really like to read Over the Wayward Wall) that were read across the world but are actually instructions for alchemists.

It's about Erin, who is sort-of like Roger and Dodger, but not really, and who might be there to help them (with what?) and might not, but she is definitely there for a purpose.

It starts with Roger and Dodger being ambushed and shot at in some mysterious way that ends abruptly with we got it wrong and then it tells you a bit of the Baker children's story and then it starts on Roger and Dodger's story.

It moves, sort-of, between those three things, forward (probably) through time, but always going back to that moment of ambush, which is similar but different every time it repeats.

Plus you read about some of the work of contemporary alchemists as well.

So it's definitely non-linear, even though the story mostly goes forward, with Roger and Dodger meeting and then disconnecting as they work towards what is described in Baker's book as the Impossible City on the Improbable Road.

(Which isn't the yellow brick road, not at all, but Oz does come into the narrative.)

I feel like I'm bungling this explanation but I don't know how else to write it. I've erased and rewritten already, several times. Which just goes so well with the book itself that if you've read it, I could leave it at that.

If you haven't read it, well.

If you need a book that is straightforward and uncomplicated and that doesn't ask you to pay much attention, you probably won't like Middlegame.

If seemingly-senseless violence bothers you, you probably won't like Middlegame.

If you like strange books that play with time, you will like Middlegame.

If you like books that make subtle references to all sorts of cultural and literary things, but without being pretentious about it, you will like Middlegame.

If you like books that make you think about the junctures in your life, the places when you made a choice that changed everything, and how it would be different if you'd chosen different, and if different would've been worse or better—you will love Middlegame.

Not everyone will love this novel. It does require your attention, but not in a painful way. In a fascinating way. It isn't a simple book, or an easy one, but one that is worth the effort.

And all of that is to say: I loved Middlegame. Even though it's hard to describe. Maybe because it is hard to describe. 

Let me know if you read it!

PS: If you loved the following books, I think you will also love Middlegame:

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
My Real Children by Jo Walton
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin
The Midwich Cuckoos​ by John Wyndham
Time After Time by Kate Atkinson
All the Birds in the Sky ​by Charlie Jane Anders



What Smeagol would refer to as a 'tricksy' book. I loved Kate Atkinson (Life after Life) & The Time Traveller's Wife & Ben Elton's Time & Time Again and especially The Thief of Time (John Boyne). Seems to me I should read this one to add to the collection!

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