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Among Others by Jo Walton
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Among Others (edition 2011)

by Jo Walton

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1,4401505,214 (3.99)2 / 333
Member:pharrm
Title:Among Others
Authors:Jo Walton
Info:Tor Books (2011), Edition: First Edition, Kindle Edition, 303 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:None

Work details

Among Others by Jo Walton

  1. 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.
  2. 20
    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.
  3. 10
    Little, Big by John Crowley (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: Similar style and approach to the world of faerie
  4. 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.
  5. 22
    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.
  6. 01
    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.
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English (148)  French (1)  All languages (149)
Showing 1-5 of 148 (next | show all)
This is a loving survey of modern-era science fiction built into diary entries from a Welsh girl who's just trying to grow up mindfully and ethically. Oh, and she uses magic and talks with fairies.

Morwenna/Mori Phelps/Markova is one half of a pair of identical teen twins. Her sister was killed by their insane witch of a mother, with the same car crash leaving Mori crippled (her word). After healing enough to run away, Mori is placed in a home for wayward youth until the agency eventually locates her long-absent father. That brings its own problems, though, not the least of which is that he has three controlling sisters who also know magic. The sisters decide to ship her off to boarding school in England, taking her away from her homeland and the rest of her mother's family.

The remainder of the book chronicles Mori's struggles to fit in, grow up, stay safe, read tons, keep only the ties that deserve to bind, and prepare for the inevitable reprisals from her vindictive mother. Along the way, she finds allies and enemies, many wonderful books, and a measure of grace.

This is a truly unique story that deserved its 2011 Nebula and 2012 Hugo awards for Best Novel. ( )
  pfflyernc | Jul 25, 2014 |
Summary: Morwenna (Mori) Phelps grew up with a twin sister and a mother who was more than half mad, and dabbled in magic. Mori and her sister knew a little about magic as well; they could see and sometimes talk to fairies that hid in the ruins and wild places in the Welsh valleys they called home. But then Mori's sister died in an accident - an accident that left Mori with a crippled leg, an accident that Mori is sure was caused by their mother's magical machinations. Now she's being sent to live with her father, who left when they were little - or more accurately, she's being sent to an English boarding school by her father's family. Mori must now learn to adapt to this strange new world, almost devoid of magic, and without her twin sister by her side. Her only comfort is in the fantasy and science fiction books she loves, but how well do those translate into growing up in the real world?

Review: I loved this book, which was completely expected on some levels, and very surprising on others. I knew going in that it was about a girl who relates more to books than to other people, and I think there's something in Mori that pretty much every bookworm will recognize. And the books to which she relates are SF/F, my own genre of choice, so that made it all the better. My knowledge of "classic" (read: 1970s) SF/F is shamefully slim, so while I recognized almost all of the authors and most of the titles Mori's reading, I'd read very few of them myself. But it turns out that didn't matter so much. Would I have gotten a deeper understanding of this book if I could have mentally compared notes about other books with Mori? Sure, of course. But simultaneously, I felt as though a lot of the point was about how Mori relates to and processes her world through the books she's reading, and which specific books they were somehow become secondary. (Plus, having not read most of the books just gives me suggestions for what to read next. I've already knocked Dragonflight off the list!)

I also knew going in that it involved fairies, and magic, which was another thing that I like. I love reading stories with different perspective on how magic works, how Faerie works, how it relates to us and the land. And I loved Mori's answers to those questions. As I read, I definitely found myself thinking: "Yes, if there is magic, this would be how it works."

"I thought, sitting there, that everything is magic. Using things connects them to you, being in the world connects you to the world, the sun streams down magic and people and animals and plants grow from sunlight and the world turns and everything is magic. Fairies are more in the magic than in the world, and people are more in the world than in the magic. Maybe fairies, the ones that aren't lost dead people, are concentrations, personifications, of the magic? And God? God is in everything, moving through everything, is the pattern that everything makes, moving. That's why messing with magic so often becomes evil, because it's going against that pattern, moving." --p. 294

But as much as I liked the approach that Walton takes to magic, simultaneously I loved that the whole thing contains an element of plausible deniability, so that as the story moves along, you're never *quite* sure if the magic is real or coincidence, if Mori really can see the fairies or if she's slightly mad as well, or even if those things are really dichotomies or are both true.

"You can almost always find chains of coincidence to disprove magic. That's because it doesn't happen the way it does in books. It makes those chains of coincidence. That's what it is. It's like if you snapped your fingers and produced a rose but it was because someone on an aeroplane had dropped a rose at just the right time for it to land in your hand. There was a real person and a real aeroplane and a real rose, but that doesn't mean the reason you have the rose in your hand isn't because you did the magic." --p. 40

So those were the things that I was expecting to love. There were also some surprises that I wasn't expecting, that I loved anyways. I didn't realize going in that this was (in part) a boarding school story, and those are always a favorite. I also didn't know that it was an epistolary novel (in the form of Mori's diary), so that was also a pleasant surprise. Walton handles the style really well, with Mori leaving some things vague, focusing on certain things and glossing over others, and not explaining details that would have been too obvious for her to bother recording in her diary. The control of the information flow is really well done, in short, allowing us to piece together what's going on and the details of what's past, without breaking Mori's voice or infodumping. (This book also encouraged me to pick up my paper journal again, for which I'm quite grateful - I'd missed it.) I was also pleasantly surprised to find this book funny - not constantly, Mori's in too much pain for that, but there was the occasional bit that made me grin, even despite some of the deeper insights and more somber elements of the story.

"(I do not miss my toys. I wouldn't play with them anyway. I am fifteen. I miss my *childhood*.) Jr. was a plastic boy on a motorbike, one of our few human male toys. His name came from Ward Moore's "Lot." I thought it daring and American to have an odd name like that with no vowels. We pronounced it Jirr. I was mortified for whole minutes when I found out what it really meant." --p. 160

So all of that's great. The thing that surprised me about how much I liked this book, is that I liked it despite the fact that not a lot happens. The plot of the book is probably best summarized thusly: Mori learns to cope with life on her own. So, she reads a lot, and meets new people and learns slowly how to relate to them instead of to books, and she thinks about magic a fair bit, but that's kind of it. Even the eventual confrontation with her mother didn't seem that dramatic, because it's not really the focus of the story. And as much as that kind of thing might ordinarily annoy me, in this case, I didn't mind at all, because I was so wrapped up in Mori's world and Mori's head that I was content just following her on her daily life. And the thing is, you do come out the other side feeling like things have happened, that Mori has changed - it just happened so quietly that you didn't always notice it was happening. Which, like the magic, is how it works in the real world anyways. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Definitely recommended for those who ever felt like they didn't fit in or couldn't deal with those around them and so escaped into books. Bonus points if those books were SF/F, or if you're looking for a little bit of magic intruding on the real world. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Jul 21, 2014 |
Rating: 4.5 of 5

Read Among Others if you:

ever felt like a weirdo because you preferred books to people
libraries over malls
a new book rather than new clothes or new gadgets

**and**

the books you preferred were mostly fantasy and science fiction.

Prerequisites for reading Among Others:

* You dig epistolary novels, especially diaries

* You LOVE books; and, I don't mean you enjoy the occasional page-turner, but you looooove books!

* You felt at least a little like an outsider at some point during your life

* You've read at least one book over and over and over...so many times it's a part of who you are

(And it wouldn't hurt if you did not stop believing in what is unseen by most simply because you had to "grow up.")

A bonus to the story: If you're not as well read as Mori, you'll find tons of leads on great books for your TBR pile. ( )
  flying_monkeys | Jun 24, 2014 |
A beautiful book. It is a series of diary entries by a fifteen year-old girl that documents her coming of age, following the death of her identical twin sister, her flight from her mother, and her arrival with a father that left her when she was two and who she has not seen since. She is transplanted from her native working class Wales into a posh English family and a posh English boarding school. While some of her growth takes place through the conventional relationship with her father, boyfriend, and mentors (in this case a librarian), the book is unique in how reading-centric it is. The narrator reads about two books a day, mostly SF, and most every journal entry describes her feelings about them. And she only overcomes her isolation when she joins a SF book club and holds her own in the discussions with the equally obsessive adults in the group.

The book is also magical, literally. Morwena, the narrator, can see and speak to fairies and do magic. But the fairies and the magic are light background and for most of the book they may or may not even be present--the fairies look like the surroundings, most of the magic has a completely realistic explanation (that in fact makes more sense than the magical interpretation), and Jo Walton does not do anything to construct any sort of elaborate fantasy world. Only in the climax of the last few pages does the magic loom larger, but even then it could all be a way of explaining Morwena's feelings.

There's not a lot that happens in the book. And nearly half of it is devoted to reading, libraries, books, librarians, book clubs, and the like, making it about as bookish as one could imagine. And there's something sort of sad about someone who finds their community through SF (although that is certainly not Walton's attitude). But the narrator is unforgettable, the love letter to reading is inspiring, and her growth is moving. So all in all, highly recommended. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
The book itself was not bad, just not really my kind of thing. The categorization is a bit misleading. There's some odd fantasy stuff in there, mostly vague. The only real SF in there would be the books she talks about. That is really the majority of the book, talking about other books. Basically the book was a somewhat interesting bibliography. Needless to say it made it less than gripping. Story seemed slow, some of the characters were detached as well. I am obviously aware of the awards, but I just don't see what they saw I guess. Like I said, decent story, but I am not sure it was really fantasy, the main character seemed more like a schizophrenic than anything. ( )
  sffstorm | Jun 9, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 148 (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 bluejo | 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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Epigraph
Er'perrhene.

—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
Dedication
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.
Quotations
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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Wikipedia in English (2)

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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