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Among Others by Jo Walton
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Among Others (edition 2011)

by Jo Walton

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1,4601535,128 (3.98)2 / 342
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 (151)  French (1)  All languages (152)
Showing 1-5 of 151 (next | show all)
Lovely and dangerous because now I want to find some of the books Mori enjoyed so much. ( )
  catalogermom | Aug 18, 2014 |
The thing is, Mori’s mum is a witch and Mori and her twin sister, with some help from the fairies, stopped her evil scheme for taking over the world, at the cost of her sister’s life. So now staying at mum’s is not really a good idea anymore. It’s goodbye to the Welsh mountains, industrial ruins and magic. Instead she is shipped off to a boarding school, paid for by her dad who she hasn’t seen since she was a baby.

The boarding school is a posh hellhole of course, and now Mori has to try and deal with both social stigma, befriending new strange fairies, snobby aunts, puberty, finidng enough books to read and her mum’s attempts on her life in the dark hours. This book is Mori’s diary.

This is a charming read indeed, full of discussions about science fiction (yep, Mori is more than a little geeky), teenage angst and descriptions of magic so incomprehensible and subtle it can always be denied (you throw a comb into a bog and three months later find out that the change you wished for was already ten years in the making). As so often when magic is mixed with teenage life, I find myself more drawn to the mundane side of things, and Mori is very interesting to follow. I can’t quite shake the feeling this book isn’t all it could be, but it’s been quite a while since I read a more *charming* novel. ( )
  GingerbreadMan | Aug 3, 2014 |
A nice story about a girl coping with the death of her twin sister. This book walks a fine between realistic and fantasy fiction, so much so that I'm not sure how much of the events detailed in the book "really" happened. I didn't like this, and it drew my rating of this down a bit. ( )
  drhapgood | Jul 27, 2014 |
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. ( )
  Pat_F. | 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 |
Showing 1-5 of 151 (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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