New Books Network

Seanan McGuire

Middlegame

Tor.com 2019

New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in LiteratureNew Books in Science Fiction January 2, 2020 Rob Wolf

Science fiction and fantasy often feature characters who seek absolute control (over a kingdom, country, world, galaxy or universe), but few break down the...

Science fiction and fantasy often feature characters who seek absolute control (over a kingdom, country, world, galaxy or universe), but few break down the secret to power as elegantly as Seanan McGuire in Middlegame (Tor.com, 2019), where her sibling protagonists subdue the forces of nature through the union of two fundamental arts: language and mathematics.

McGuire sees elements of a “modern Frankenstein” in her novel about a brother and sister created by a ruthless alchemist. Instead of a hideous monster, her alchemist produces two brilliant siblings, whose rhyming names (Roger, a genius at languages, and Dodger, a math prodigy) belie their potential to control time and space.

Life is easier for Roger, whose facility with words opens doors. Dodger, on the other hand, has had a harder time socializing; as a result, she is less trusting and keeps to herself. “Dodger is a math prodigy and a smart girl. And those are two things that tend to get you kicked in the teeth by the world over and over again,” McGuire says.

Raised in separate homes, the siblings are at first unaware of each other. Middlegame is as much a story about their on-again off-again relationship as it is about the discovery of their power to manipulate time and their own alchemical origins.

“It took me 10 years to write because I had to get good enough to write it first. The flow charts for Middlegame were kind of a nightmare in and of themselves,” McGuire says.

Like Roger, McGuire (who also writes under the name Mira Grant) was a prodigy in English. She is also an all star among writers. The author of 36 books, she’s received numerous awards, including the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2010 and Nebula and Hugo awards in 2016 for best novella. She’s twice won Hugo’s for best fancast and in 2013 received a record five Hugo nominations.

She says her prolific output is partly a result of a conscious choice. “If you’re somebody that wants to have more of a social life than I do or wants to have more of a family life than I do, you need to make different choices,” she says. “At this point I am functionally … an Olympic athlete. It’s just that my sport is novel writing, so I’m in training every single day to be able to start and finish the next book in a timely fashion.”


Rob Wolf is the host of New Books in Science Fiction and the author of The Alternate Universe and The Escape.