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Among Others by Jo Walton

Among Others (edition 2011)

by Jo Walton

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2,0661913,212 (3.97)2 / 418
Title:Among Others
Authors:Jo Walton
Info:Tor Books (2011), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Among Others by Jo Walton

  1. 80
    The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (norabelle414)
    norabelle414: A young, bookish kid in 1970s England gets tangled up in magical and scary events larger than they are.
  2. 40
    Little, Big by John Crowley (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: Similar style and approach to the world of faerie
  3. 30
    The Child That Books Built by Francis Spufford (anglemark)
    anglemark: Both books are about how reading shaped a child, although they are not both viewing it exactly the same way.
  4. 10
    Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Both works have a hint of Faerie, without being clear whether it's real or not. Also bad parents and their struggling offspring.
  5. 10
    The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip (Herenya)
    Herenya: Both stories have a heroine dealing with grief and the sometimes-loneliness of being 15.
  6. 43
    The Magicians: A Novel by Lev Grossman (Jannes)
    Jannes: Both are fantasy or fantasy-sih books about fantasy readers and how the stories you read hape you and affect your sense of the world.

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English (190)  French (1)  All (191)
Showing 1-5 of 190 (next | show all)
I'm not normally one to get sucked into a diary-format epistolary, but Walton's voice is strong and the story engaging.

If you have ever loved books enough that they shape your friendships (not the other way around), you'll enjoy this book. ( )
  SESchend | Sep 6, 2017 |
It's hard to say what made this book such an absorbing read; really, very little happened, and the most action-packed scenes were generally the shortest (e.g. the last 8 or so pages). Curiously, it reads like a love song to science fiction (and libraries!), but the book itself is fantasy, full of magic and fairies and ghosts.

Except for a brief preface, dated May 1, 1975, we meet the main character, Mor, when she's already installed at Arlinghurst, a boarding school in England, in September 1979. She has come to be there, we learn, after some major events: her twin sister's death after a fight with their mother, a madwoman/witch, Mor's running away, being stuck in a Children's Home, then being sent to live with her father and his three older sisters, none of whom she has ever met; they're the ones who send her to boarding school. She's not allowed to live with her beloved Grampar or Aunt Teg, who helped raise her.

At sports- and games-obsessed Arlinghurst, Mor gets good marks but has few friends; she has a bad leg from the same car crash that killed her sister, and her main joy in life is reading sci-fi novels. She has vowed not to do any magic other than protective magic, to keep her safe from her mother. Her life at Arlinghurst improves once she finds a sci-fi book group at the library in town, and some kindred souls (including both the school and the town librarian, and the gorgeous Wim) with whom to discuss books.

Throughout her journal entries, as she recounts daily life (school, book club, term breaks with Daniel and the aunts and back home in South Wales with Grampar and Auntie Teg and the fairies), she philosophizes about magic (which can make things have happened - Mor's primary concern is that she made the book club be her karass, and if she did that, then they aren't exercising their free will) and writes about the books she's reading, nearly all science fiction - LeGuin, Delany, Tiptree, Niven, Dick, and others.


This is for all the libraries in the world,
and the librarians who sit there day after day
lending books to people.

And it was the landscape that formed us, that made us who we were as we grew in it, that affected everything. We thought we were living in a fantasy landscape when actually we were living in a science fictional one. (34)

It's amazing how large the things are that it's possible to overlook. (34)

There are some awful things in the world, it's true, but there are also some great books. (52)

Interlibrary loans are a wonder of the world and a glory of civilization. (59)

Class is entirely intangible, and the way it affects things isn't subject to scientific analysis, and it's not supposed to be real but it's pervasive and powerful. See; just like magic. (66)

"It's a lovely dream, but it would never work....Marx is like Plato, he has dreams that can't come true as long as people are people." (Daniel's father Sam to Mor, 77)

Sometimes I'm not sure whether I'm entirely human....I care more about the people in books that the people I see every day. (119)

Morally, magic is just indefensible. (142)

"Bibliotropic. Like sunflowers are heliotropic, they naturally turn towards the sun. We naturally turn towards the bookshop." (Hugh to Mor and Janine, 154)

Magic isn't inherently evil. But it does seem to be terribly bad for people. (Mor, after the ear-piercing incident with the Aunts at Christmas, 184)

And I thought all that was wasted, all that time....Except it wasn't wasted, because we remember it. Things need to be worth doing for themselves, not just for practice for some future time. (189)

Since she's been dead, I'd almost forgotten, or not forgotten, but not thought about her as her distinct self so much, more about the two of us together. I'd felt as if I'd been torn in half, but really it wasn't that, it was that she had been taken away. I didn't own her, and there were always differences, always, she was her own person and I'd known that when she was alive, but that had blurred in all the time since when she hadn't been there to defend her own rights. (197)

Doing is doing.
Does it mean that it doesn't matter if it's magic or not, anything you do has power and consequences and affects other people? Because that might well be the case, but I still think magic is different. (198)

"But sometimes healing hurts, had you thought of that?" (Sam to Mor, 226)

I know no other book that is so much like going on a journey. (Re: LOTR, 235)

-how interesting that what comes out as doing the best he could in a man looks like neglect in a woman. (Re: Prospero, 325)

Tiptree stories to look up: "The Girl Who Was Plugged In" and "Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death" (241)

There's no proving anything once magic gets involved. (Re: creating her "karass" (Vonnegut reference) by magic, 261)

If you love books enough, books will love you back. (300) ( )
  JennyArch | Aug 3, 2017 |
It's like this book stuck its hand inside my chest and reached back into my youth and yanked it out, the whole book-filled mess of it, and then we both looked at it and at the way people live stories into their lives, and then I cried. It's not going to touch everyone that way, probably, this book, but it was incredibly resonant for me. It's a meta schoolgirl fantasy novel, but it's like holding up a mirror for a certain kind of young reader, it seems very autobiographical and it is beautifully written, and it felt like it sewed itself right into my heart from the first pages. God, everything, all the SFnal references, the way she leaned on Heinlein and Tolkein and LeGuin and Zelazny and Tiptree and McCaffrey... how she'd gauge new people by whether or not they'd want to Impress a dragon... I don't know. It was also a book about grief, and life, and the protagonist has a disability (she uses a cane), and and and. Yes, I rec it. ( )
  Gretchening | Jul 20, 2017 |
Brill! xD ( )
  kephradyx | Jun 20, 2017 |
I've been telling everyone about this book since I started reading it, and I don't normally promote books like that. But if you like genre fiction and if you had a childhood love of reading and if you ever felt like an outsider, I think you will love this book, a fantasy novel about a science fiction lover set in 1979-80. A really truthful book about loss, the pains of growing up, love, the Welsh countryside, and reading-- with fairies thrown in! Walton's conception of magic is really compelling, and the narrative voice is excellent. A lot packed into this: I'd love to teach it someday, actually!
  Stevil2001 | May 26, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 190 (next | show all)
As [Mori] tries to come to terms with her sister’s death through both books and fairy magic, the novel assumes true emotional resonance.
There are really two points where the success of the novel as what it is make it fail to connect with me. The first has to do with the books. It's written in the form of a diary, and the form and voice are spot-on. But part of getting the diary form right is that it doesn't provide much in the way of information about the many books that Mori reads in the course of the novel-- you wouldn't expect a teenager with a lot on her mind to do a detailed plot summary of everything she read, after all.

This is no big deal as long as you recognize the references to authors and titles. But if you don't-- and there are a lot of books mentioned that I know about but either haven't read or do not recall fondly-- a lot of significance is lost. The titles sort of flash by as blank spots in the narrative, a kind of "This Cultural Reference Intentionally Left Blank" effect that ends up being a little off-putting.
This isn't a traditional fantasy, by any means. But it's a smart, heartfelt novel, with a strong, likable narrator, and many touchstones in terms of other books that will resonate for us, depending on how we felt/feel about those books.

It has also jumped right into my short list of favorite books ever, and it's one that I plan to reread more than once.
But, just as the magic, it's a peculiar, unique book. I've read most of Walton's fiction. I like this best, but in some ways it's the least structurally certain of her works; I think the magic that's so subtle it's deniable at the start of the book fails to maintain that quirky quality at its end—and I understand why, but still found it jarring.

Regardless, there's a deep beauty to this book that feels so entirely real I'm grateful for its existence, for the fact that I could read it, and for the way it now graces my own internal library.
Among Others is many things – a fully realized boarding-school tale, a literary memoir, a touching yet unsentimental portrait of a troubled family – but there’s something particularly appealing about a fantasy which not only celebrates the joy of reading, but in which the heroine must face the forces of doom not in order to return yet another ring to some mountain, but to plan a trip to the 1980 Glasgow Eastercon. That’s the sort of book you can love.
added by Passer_Invenit | editLocus, Gary Wolfe (Jan 24, 2011)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jo Waltonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kellgren, KatherineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nielsen Hayden, PatrickEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Riffel, HannesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
s.BENešCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vojnar, KamilCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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—Ursula Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven

What one piece of advice would you give to yourself at what younger age?

Any time between 10 and 25:

It's going to improve. Honest. There really are people out there that you will like and who will like you.

—Farah Mendelsohn, LiveJournal, 23rd May 2008
This is for all the libraries in the world, and all the librarians who sit there day after day lending books to people.
First words
The Phurnacite factory in Abercwmboi killed all the trees for two miles around. We'd measured it on the mileometer.
It doesn't matter. I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books.
[On Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd]: He makes things happen neatly, and sometimes they're horrible things, but they're always very pat. I hate that. He could have learned a lot from Silverberg and Delany.
She was looking at a record called 'Anarchy in the U.K.' by a group called the Sex Pistols. It was a very ugly cover, but I am quite interested in anarchism because of 'The Dispossessed'.
Interlibrary loans are a wonder of the world and a glory of civilization.
Libraries really are wonderful. They're better than bookshops, even. I mean bookshops make a profit on selling you books, but libraries just sit there lending you books quietly out of the goodness of their hearts.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Startling, unusual, and irresistibly readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and science fiction, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in the science fiction novels that were her closest companions. When her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled — and her twin sister dead.

Fleeing to a father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England — a place all but devoid of true magic. There, she is tempted fate by doing magic herself, in an attempt to find a circle of like-minded friends. But her magic also drew the attention of her mother, bringing about a reckoning that could no longer be put off...

Combining elements of autobiography with flights of imagination in the manner of novels like Jonatham Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude, this is a stunning new novel by an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers such as Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. LeGuin.

See http://papersky.livejournal.com/37282... for the moment of the book's genesis.
Haiku summary
The battle's over
Books keep you sane living in
Ruins with fairies.

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Raised by a half-mad mother who dabbled in magic, Morwenna Phelps found refuge in two worlds. As a child growing up in Wales, she played among the spirits who made their homes in industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closests companions. Then her mother tried to bend the spirits to dark ends, and Mori was forced to confront her in a magical battle that left her crippled -- and her twin sister dead.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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