I’m fascinated by unintended connections. I bumped “Middlegame” up my TBR because I’m trying to read as many of the Hugo Nominees as I can, and (skirting spoilers you can’t get from just reading the list of chapters( it has surface-level congruencies with some of them. Like “The Ten Thousand Doors of January,” it offers non-linear chapter heads and some book-within-book moments; like “This Is How You Lose the Time War,” there are some malleable time shenanigans.
In some ways, it even more resembles another book I read recently, Blake Crouch’s “Recursion,” but with almost everything I didn’t like about that novel subtracted.
“Middlegame” reminded me of one of my favorite fantasists, Tim Powers, partly because it strikes a balance between big, philosophical ideas about the nature of reality, and fast-moving, breathless action sequences. But also in tonal variation – this novel gets dark-verging-on-horror for some of its set pieces – and in sentence-level craft, (not to mention intricate plotting).
It’s not quite a home run for me. There’s one lump of exposition in the final act that was hard for me to swallow, mostly because it spells out for some of the characters a bunch of things the reader will likely have worked out for themself. And, also in the final act, the scope of characters’ magical powers grew unsatisfying for me; sometimes constraints seemed present because the narrative structure demanded them, not because they made in-world sense.
Overall, I liked it quite a bit. And sort of hope someone tries to film it.