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Among Others

by Jo Walton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,7992434,504 (3.96)2 / 488
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)
Recently added byrebelkah, acdha, private library, HMALibrary, tigerinacircle
  1. 90
    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. 50
    Little, Big by John Crowley (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: Similar style and approach to the world of faerie
  3. 40
    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. 20
    Shadows by Robin McKinley (bibliovermis)
  5. 53
    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. 10
    Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Mo references several works in 'Among Us', but the terminology of 'Cat's Cradle' is especially important.
  7. 10
    Eggshells by Caitriona Lally (susanbooks)
    susanbooks: Both are realistic novels in which the worlds of magic and fairy may be real and/or function as coping mechanisms for the narrators. Beautiful PTSD novels.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 11
    The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Recovering from tragedy, holding to a moral centre.

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» See also 488 mentions

English (241)  French (1)  All languages (242)
Showing 1-5 of 241 (next | show all)
Mo is embarking upon a new life with her father whom she's just met for the first time, attending a boarding school unlike any she's been in before, fitting into a social scene that rejects her, in a foreign country, relegated to using her second language as she struggles with a crippling injury, the death of a close family member, unwanted adult male attention, and maintaining distance from her psychotic mother who keeps sending her threatening mail. None of this seems to weigh her down much. The idea here, I think (because I wasn't made to feel it), is that Mo has plenty of genre fiction to read, therefore all is well. This is where Jo Walton gets to share her own list of genre favourites she read while growing up, making them Mo's (I've read "What Makes This Book So Great" and the correlation seems pretty spot on.)

It has an original take on fairies and magic that bends them as close to real world as possible: coincidences are magic in action, etc. It's an interesting approach that isn't explored much; a thin, barely-there veneer of fantasy over the tale of a girl enduring boarding school and her weird family. Mo is likeable enough that I kept reading despite having no idea what the story was, while questions kept distracting me. Who is Mo writing to, that she has to explain all of the school's inner workings? Why does she think or say something that sounds childish, and then a page later demonstrates an improbable wisdom for her years? The romantic element is nice, but here's a tip: if your boyfriend is that ready and eager to propose killing your parent then you should probably re-evaluate that relationship. Unless you're Mo, I guess, who doesn't even blink.

I'd probably enjoy a conversation with Jo Walton, since the highlights for me came from reading between the lines about her own experience with growing up Welsh, and what reading had meant and continues to mean to her. I would expect that in an essay or a speech, but I was expecting something different in a novel, maybe a dramatized passage towards grasping this understanding. Mo has that understanding from the very start, so it subverts that expectation. This novel is never aiming to carve its own place in genre. Instead it is an ode to what its readers love about genre. What it dramatizes is a defense of genre's value and place in the world. If you subtract the crazy boyfriend. ( )
  Cecrow | Jan 31, 2023 |
I re-read this one after hearing it discussed on the Overdue Podcast. Yes, I'm a scifi fangirl. Those books are the foundation of my love for the genre.
( )
  JudyGibson | Jan 26, 2023 |
So many awards for this book and I normally love Jo Walton but this book didn't really sing with me. It had all sorts of stuff I should love: a heroine that was a voracious reader and a huge scifi geek, magical realism, fairies, but it seemed meandering and the conflict didn't really seem compelling to me up until the last chapter or two. I think it's a good book but fell down for me on pacing and a strong narrator voice (Mor's diary entries) that I just didn't enjoy. Strange because I usually love first person/epistolary stories but this one just wasn't my cup of tea. ( )
  ajhackwith | Jan 3, 2023 |
This book was dripping with nostalgia. Unfortunately, this wasn't my nostalgia. I may have enjoyed this book more if I had been a teenager during the late 1970s/early 1980s but since I wasn't, I think I missed most of the inside references to books I had not read. I have read maybe one book out of every five Mori name drops.

I found it odd that this book isn't about the Big Event, but what happens after. Mori has to deal with the various fall-outs of defeating her evil witch mother - losing her twin sister, injuring her leg, moving in with her father, and in general just learning how to move on. And considering that most of this is done in her journal talking about the copious amounts of books she reads, it frankly ends up rather boring.

I noticed that many people categorized this as a YA book. I would emphatically not. This is a book for those who spent hours holed up somewhere reading the newest Heinlein and Zelazny - before the days YA was even a market and there was only children's books and everything else. When fandom was just struggling to gain identity and outcasts discovered there were others in the world just like them.

It was an okay book, but I was expecting so much more from a book that won the Hugo. I think I was the wrong age group for this one. ( )
  wisemetis | Dec 27, 2022 |
This was a 3.5 for me. Much of the book feels like a sci-fi circle-jerk, but the narrative style is compelling ( )
  martialalex92 | Dec 10, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 241 (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

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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Folio SF (549)
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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.
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.
Tolkien understood about the things that happen after the end. Because this is after the end, this is all the Scouring of the Shire, this is figuring out how to live in the time that wasn’t supposed to happen after the glorious last stand. I saved the world, or I think I did, and look, the world is still here,  with sunsets and interlibrary loans. And it doesn’t care about me any more than the Shire cared about Frodo.
You can almost always find chains of coincidence to disprove magic. That's because it doesn't happen the way it happens 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.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

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.

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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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