Friday, July 31, 2020

Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire, May 2019

Roger Middleton and Dodger Cheswich areey  two kids growing up on opposite sides of the country, Roger in Cambridge, MA, and Dodger in Palo Alto, California. They're both adopted, the same age, and perfectly ordinary kids.

Except they're not. 

Roger's parents and teachers are impressed by his quick grasp of and love for English, but frustrated by his struggles with math. Dodger's parents and teachers are equally impressed by how easily she masters math, and frustrated by her struggles in English class.

Eventually, they both seemingly start to master their weak subjects. What's really happening is that they have started communicating in their heads, not quite telepathically but close, and coaching each other.
Roger and Dodger are the products of an alchemical experiment, the attempt of James Reed to embody the Doctrine of Ethos and gain control of the world.

They aren't Reed's only creations, nor the first attempt to embody the Doctrine--split in two, Math and Language, to make it controllable. Other pairs have failed to embody the Doctrine, or died.

Roger and Dodger are the other kind of problem; they weren't supposed to be able to make contact with each other so soon. That was supposed to be completely in the power of Reed and his assistant, Leigh Barrow, to control.

They break the connection the kids have when they are nine. They reconnect in high school, meeting at a chess tournament. Another break happens.

We alternate between Roger and Dodger, the actions and plans of Reed, and the stories written by Reed's creator, Asphodel Baker, whom he murdered. And gradually, Roger and Dodger learn just how complicated,  disrupted, and disruptive their existence is--along with who they can and can't trust.

I really liked the characters, the way this fantastical story is woven into the real world, and, well, the fact that there is no victory without loss. 

Highly recommended.

I received this book as part of the Hugo Voters packet, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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