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Among Others by Jo Walton

Among Others (edition 2012)

by Jo Walton

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,8351723,798 (3.97)2 / 387
Title:Among Others
Authors:Jo Walton
Info:Corsair (2012), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Read 2013

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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English (171)  French (1)  All languages (172)
Showing 1-5 of 171 (next | show all)
I liked this book significantly more than I expected, from the descriptions I’d read. I’d also only read one Jo Walton book before, and felt a bit lukewarm about it – but ‘Among Others’ kept winning awards and garnering praise; so I suggested it for my book club.
Technically, this is a fantasy novel about a young girl, gifted with the ability to see fairies, who has recently saved the world in a magical confrontation that killed her twin sister, left her crippled, and tore apart her family.

However, it’s also an authentic, undoubtedly autobiographical story of growing up in Wales in the 1970’s as a smart, not-particularly-popular girl who’s a voracious reader and science-fiction fan.

I am sure that many of Walton’s readers can identify with her character in at least some ways, and yes, this may have something to do with this book’s accolades. As far as the criticisms lobbed against the book that you have to have read the books the character reads to understand it – I disagree strongly. Admittedly, I have read a good chunk of them, but others in my book club discussion had not, and did not feel that they were missing anything: it’s all explained in context. It’s not so much about the books, as it is a vivid depiction of how an avid reader thinks: how daily events are recontextualized, explained, and enhanced by the content of recently read books; how books enrich life. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book.

It wasn’t a perfect book – some elements were a bit too wish-fulfillment-y, especially in the autobiographical context. (Wim is just too good to be true… a perfect guy, misunderstood by everyone else…) And bits of the plot kind of seemed tacked-on-as-excuse. But overall, reading this was a wonderful experience.
( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
This is a coming of age story that verges on magical, but for the longest time you're never quite sure if it is magical, or if it's all in the young teen's mind.
Mori was raised in Wales by her grandparents when her father abandoned her decidedly strange, possibly mad, possibly evil mother. In an effort to avoid what her mother was attempting to do, Mori became badly injured and her twin sister died.
Mori goes to find her father in England and is shunted off to a boarding school among girls that mock her for her accent, her lack of social standing and her limp.
At the same time, she is coming across all the greats of fantasy and science fiction and trying to find her way and friends in this very alien place.
This is a very readable book and a very unusual look at YA fantasy. Very sweet, extremely prickly heroine. Highly recommended. ( )
  quiBee | Jan 21, 2016 |
The inherent nature of story-telling is the ability to share and have it mean different things to different people. Among Others will always be about fairies for me. It could have sat comfortably on my sunny yellow bookcase, sharing secrets with my other treasured childhood memories.
For the complete review visit:

( )
  Girlscifi | Jan 16, 2016 |
Now and then I come across a book that is a distillation of what I like in fiction, genre fiction in particular. I previously raved about [b:Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell|14201|Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell|Susanna Clarke|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1357027589s/14201.jpg|3921305] and then some people told me they think it's a load of ol' crap. It puzzled me a bit that some people don't see the greatness of the books I deemed to be great, but then I realize that such things probably puzzle most of us, we are all arbiters of good taste in our own little universe. So given that after reading this book you may not agree with my assessment of it (much to my astonishment) I am going into "rave mode" again.

Firstly I am going steal SF Signal's one sentence synopsis:

"A teenaged girl in 1979 deals with her witch of a mother, faeries, a difficult boarding school life, and the joys of discovering science fiction and fantasy."

Any mention of boarding school and fantasy in the same sentence will tend to trigger the name "Harry Potter" in people's minds, well you can fuggedaboudit, it's just an ordinary boarding school, no Defence Against the Dark Arts classes here. In fact, the setting of the boarding school resonates with me very much as a former pupil of such a school. It is a tough environment for geeky scifi reading type of kid that I was and Morweena, the protagonist and narrator of this book is. The loneliness, the bad food, the discovery of like minded friends all ring very true to me.

From the synopses of this book at Goodreads, Amazon etc. fantasy fans are probably unsure whether this really is a fantasy novel at all, and not just some rambling of a delusional girl. Well, the author has stated clearly in interviews that the fantasy element is not meant to be ambiguous, even if it may seem that way. You see, Jo Walton has done something very different with the so-called "magic system" trope here. In the universe of this book the magic is very discreet and always has "plausible deniability" in that the effect of the magic may look like normal coincidence. This makes the magic even more dangerous than in your average fantasy epic, the effect can be devastatingly wide ranging with everybody none the wiser about the cause. I am not going to give any example of this, it is really worth discovering by yourself.

The most important aspect of this book is that it is a love letter to science fiction and fantasy books, I have never seen so many books and authors mentioned in a single book and they are mostly books I am very familiar with. Like Asimov's Foundation, Delany's Babel 17, Tolkien's LOTR etc. At the time the story is set, in late 1979 and early 1980 fantasy was not the massively popular genre it is today and the fantasy books were far outnumbered by the sf books, so interestingly this book is actually about a science fiction reader in a fantasy world. Most of the books mentioned are scifi classics with only the odd LOTR and Narnia books thrown in. The little comments about the books and the love the author via her characters show for the books make me want to read sf/f until my eyes fall out.

The book is beautifully written in eloquent yet fairly simple prose in an epistolary format (diary entries), the characters are very well developed and believable. I can actually imagine what it feels like to be a teenage crippled girl in spite of my many disqualifications for identifying with such a character. As I understand it the story is partly autobiographical in that many of the key events are based on her own experiences as a teenager. I found the climax to be oddly conventional in its spectacularity and it does not seem to conform with the relative quietude of the preceding chapters. Still, no real harm done.

Jo Walton clearly loves the sf/f genre and reading in general with a passion, a feeling I share and this book is another one to be cherished.
A solid 5 stars for a well deserved 2011 Nebula Awards Winner.


Further reading:
Jo Walton's Q&A at Io9
Bibliography for Among Others
Jo Walton's The Big Idea article

Update, September 4, 2012
Among Others just won the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Novel, a few months prior to that it won the Nebula Award. It has also been nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. That should be enough accolades for anyone considering reading this book! ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
There has been much to do about this novel--won several prestigious SF awards. It is a surprising book and quite compelling for what it is. It is mostly a book about a young girl and her love of science fiction reading. But at the same time she is involved in magic (the surviving twin and daughter of an evil mad witch whom she must win over). The magic happens on the side almost in between what really goes on in the book, discussion about reading. And in the end quite fittingly the books are key to the magic.

I did enjoy the book. It is surprising but for none of the reasons you would think. Though I've only read a few of the books invoked and discussed her by the narrator and her friends, I still found this discussion very interesting. Perhaps because I am a book person. Magic in books, who knew? ( )
  idiotgirl | Dec 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 171 (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 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)

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