Roger Middleton is a rather typical seven-year-old boy. He lives with his adopted parents in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He seems to be exceptionally gifted when it comes to grammar, spelling, anything to do with languages, really. But he struggles with even the most basic levels of mathematics.
Dodger Cheswich is not a typical seven-year-old girl. She lives with her parents in Palo Alto, California and she is a mathematical genius. She appears to be able to comprehend and master increasingly complex levels of equations far beyond her limited number of years. But she doesn’t deal well with people and has incredible difficulties deciphering anything outside the realm of the numbers she finds so easy to understand.
These two children, who are incredibly similar and almost diametrically opposed, are of intense interest to James Reed. Reed is not a scientist, but an alchemist. He is also not a man. He was created over 100 years ago, by a different alchemist, whom he killed shortly after she brought him to life. Reed created Roger and Dodger, and he plans to watch and guide them from afar until he can use them for his ultimate purpose: controlling the universe.
In Middlegame, award-winning author Seanan Mcguire tells a complex and compelling story about how two children find their way in the world, with the fate of the universe hanging in the balance. It is a novel rife with dichotomies and the struggles between the extremes. It is grand in scale, and yet incredibly personal. It is about the eternal struggle between science and storytelling, the struggle against sexism and the equity denied half of the humans on the planet. It is about the universality of mathematics and the ineffable power of language and story. It is about the struggle between the slavery of destiny and the freedom of self-determination. And, ultimately, it is about how those with limitless power are, and should be, judged by those who are powerless.
McGuire, in her The Wayward Children series, has written about troubled children and the inability of adults to truly understand them. In Middlegame, she fully explores the difficulties and indignities visited on children, especially gifted or talented ones, as they make their way toward adulthood. She also illustrates how this is partially due to well-meaning but insensitive adults, and partially an inherent part of the journey that we all must take.
As is typical of her other works, the writing is sharp and clear, with just the right amount of humor, angst, insight, and terror. The characters are terribly and wonderfully wrought, and every time the reader believes they have discerned their allegiances, those same characters will surprise and shock with unexpected, but completely reasonable, choices. The chronology of the novel is complex, with the first few pages describing the end of the world as we know it, jumping back in time over a century to begin the story proper and then making necessary jumps forward and back as the plot necessitates. It sounds daunting, but observant readers will have no difficulties.
Middlegame is a difficult novel to classify. Is it Science Fiction? Not really, as alchemy plays a large part in the plot. Is it Fantasy? Again, not really, as Mathematics, Linguistics and multiple other disciplines play crucial roles in the story being told. This novel defies description! But, if you're looking for something magnificent and compelling, this could be the book for which you are looking.