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Among Others by Jo Walton

Among Others (edition 2012)

by Jo Walton

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,6711634,288 (3.96)2 / 380
Title:Among Others
Authors:Jo Walton
Info:Tor Books (2012), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library, Read
Tags:Science Fiction, School, Meta, British

Work details

Among Others by Jo Walton

  1. 40
    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. 20
    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.
  3. 32
    The Magicians 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.
  4. 10
    Little, Big by John Crowley (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: Similar style and approach to the world of faerie
  5. 00
    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.
  6. 00
    The Changeling Sea by Patricia A. McKillip (Herenya)
    Herenya: Both stories have a heroine dealing with grief and the sometimes-loneliness of being 15.

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Showing 1-5 of 162 (next | show all)
Quiet and strange. Really puts the whole "magical boarding school" thing on its ear. Read like something very personal, something about loss, and finding yourself within a kerass. ( )
  aliceoddcabinet | Jul 25, 2015 |
This book defies description. It is written as a diary of a young woman. Mori tells us her story which mixes magic, books, and even first love. Mori has fled Wales after the death of her sister which she blames on a magical attack from her mother. In the attack, she is also hurt and is in almost constant pain due to damage to her leg and hip.

Leaving her mother has placed her with the father who abandoned them when she was a small child. She doesn't know him and is very suspicious of his three older sisters. They determine that she should attend the same boarding school that the sisters had attended. Mori is a very good scholar in everything except math but she looks at the world very differently than the rest of the students. This leaves her alone, lonely, teased and bullied.

Luckily, she has her books and the regard of the sympathetic school librarian. She also visits the local town library and discovers the joys of interlibrary loan. The book is filled with a who's who of the books and authors of science fiction who inform her life. I immediately identified because I had read most of the same authors and books when I was growing up. I also empathized with Mori's desire to find a group of people who understood her and was glad when she found and was accepted into the local Science Fiction book club.

A love of science fiction is also one thing that unites Mori and her father. However, Mori's world is also filled with magical thinking. She sees beings she calls fairies in the wild places and they will sometimes talk to her. She believes that she can do magic and is worried that she had new friends because of magic she did. She keeps objects around her that she believes protect her from her mother.

I found this book to be compellingly readable but wonder what young adults who don't have my extensive background in science fiction would feel about it. Of course, it may lead voracious readers to delve into the greats of science fiction. ( )
1 vote kmartin802 | Jun 23, 2015 |
It's an odd book - the writing style is in some respects reminiscent of Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, except in first person. Told completely in the voice and point of view of a 15 year old girl in Wales and Shropshire, during the late 1970s and early 1980s (circa 1979-1980). It's written in "diary" format, chapters are dated, and often not much longer than a sentence or two. And for a while it feels like nothing much is happening, since the story is more of an internalized or psychological narrative than an external action packed page turner. Fans of Harry Potter will most likely be bored.

After a traumatic incident with her insane mother, Mori has run away from home to live with her estranged father and his three sisters, who she compares to Shakespeare's three hags in Macbeth.
In reality they are middle class aristocrats, living on an estate in Shropshire, holding teas, watching telly, and ordering their somewhat bookish and rather wimpy brother about. They send Mori off to boarding school - a prestigious all girls academy. Feeling somewhat alienated and cut off from her land, Wales, and her magic, Mori who was crippled in the incident, struggles to fit in. Barely making friends. Until one day she spins a bit of magic - and a friendly librarian invites her to join his science fiction book club. Mori is convinced that the magic spell she spun to protect herself from her mother and attract "friends" resulted in this welcome turn of events. When in truth, it may well just be an ordinary chain of events - Mori devoring science fiction novels in the library, ordering more, until the librarians notice and feel the need to encourage her love in new ways.

If you are a librarian or adore 1970s science fiction, this is your book. It is no surprise it won the Hugo and Nebula - the book is in some respects a homage to the sci-fi novels of that period. Mori discusses at length everything from Tolkien to Silverberg, Samueal Delany, Roger Zelzany, Marion Zimmer Bradely, Ursula Le Quinn, McCaffrey, CJ Cherryh (although less so), CS Lewis, Stephen R. Donaldson (which she does not like - mainly because the publisher had the audacity to compare it to Tolkien's Lord of the Rings), Robert Heinlein, Issac Asmiov, Harlan Ellison, Arthur C. Clark, and Philip K. Dick. If you are a sci-fi geek and adore these novels - you'll enjoy this novel. If you aren't, you may become a bit lost. I'm half tempted to state that this is a book that may only appeal to bibliophiles..and possibly science fiction librarians and academics. There's also some discussion of the philosophy of Socrates and Plato.

Very little happens in the novel - it's not plotty. And the plot is rather simplestic - basically a young girl has to overcome the negative influences of various women in her life. It may turn off or offend feminists or not. The women are admittedly stronger, and the men portrayed as a bit weak. Also there's a bit of a gender flip, in that the women manipulate and use magic, are in some aspects aggressive, while the men are nurturing and supportive.

It's a fascinating psychological study though - with all sorts of interesting coming of age metaphors. Also the author plays around with the concept of magic and fairies in an innovative and interesting manner - that I've seldom seen done. The fairies may or may not actually be fairies - it remains unclear. Mori calls them fairies for lack of a better name. They are various shapes and sizes, and often intangible. Also magic - tends to work indirectly...as a sort of causal chain of events. Difficult to explain, yet more realistic. A scientific take on magic as opposed to a fantastical one.

Slow to start, but ultimately compelling and haunting. It sticks in your mind long after you read it.
Mori wonders at various points if there is a downside of escaping completely into books. If she is shutting herself off? Yet it is through her books that she finds others like herself, and evolves. The act of reading - expands her consciousness and allows her to let go of her childhood, and past grievances. In some respects, the science fiction novels she devours ultimately heal her.

( )
  cmlloyd67 | Jun 7, 2015 |
I had forgotten what it was like to be a teenager, but Jo Walton seems to have recaptured it here in a story told through a girl's journal entries. Agh, I remember those journal entries now, not to mention the vague feelings of guilt over everything, the angst, oh, the pre-internet angst. I also felt that the magic in this book was just perfect, not benign but not totally evil either, powerful but deniable. I think I would have liked this book even if it didn't have a happy-ish ending, but it did, and I like that, too. ( )
  Amelia_Smith | May 2, 2015 |
Absolutely loved the first 80% of the book- a wonderful blending of genres, and really great character writing. Parts of it reminded me a bit of "little, big" which I read in 2013, but maybe just because of the subject matter. At the end, i found myself wishing that all the fairies etc had been in her head, and a way of dealing with other issues in her life. Also thought the fight with her mother at the end was a weird insert, which either should have been fleshed out more or left out altogether.
( )
  abbeyhar | Apr 2, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 162 (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)

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jo Waltonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kellgren, KatherineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nielsen Hayden, PatrickEditorsecondary 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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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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