Winner of the 2011 Nebula Award for Best Novel
Winner of the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Novel
Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably 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 SF, 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 industrial ruins. But her mind found freedom and promise in the science fiction novels that were her closest 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 crippledand her twin sister dead.
Fleeing to her father whom she barely knew, Mori was sent to boarding school in England-a place all but devoid of true magic. There, outcast and alone, she 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 Jonathan Lethem's The Fortress of Solitude, this is potentially a breakout book for an author whose genius has already been hailed by peers like Kelly Link, Sarah Weinman, and Ursula K. Le Guin.
One of School Library Journal's Best Adult Books 4 Teens titles of 2011
One of io9's best Science Fiction & Fantasy books of the year 2011
About the Author
JO WALTON's novel Tooth and Claw won the World Fantasy Award. The novels of her Small Change sequenceFarthing, Ha'penny, and Half a Crownhave won acclaim ranging from national newspapers to the Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice Award. A native of Wales, Walton lives in Montreal.
Read an Excerpt
By Jo Walton, Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2010 Jo Walton
All rights reserved.
Thursday 1st May 1975
The Phurnacite factory in Abercwmboi killed all the trees for two miles around. We'd measured it on the mileometer. It looked like something from the depths of hell, black and looming with chimneys of flame, reflected in a dark pool that killed any bird or animal that drank from it. The smell was beyond description. We always wound up the car windows as tight as tight when we had to pass it, and tried to hold our breath, but Grampar said nobody could hold their breath that long, and he was right. There was sulphur in that smell, which was a hell chemical as everyone knew, and other, worse things, hot unnameable metals and rotten eggs.
My sister and I called it Mordor, and we'd never been there on our own before. We were ten years old. Even so, big as we were, as soon as we got off the bus and started looking at it we started holding hands.
It was dusk, and as we approached the factory loomed blacker and more terrible than ever. Six of the chimneys were alight; four belched out noxious smokes.
"Surely it is a device of the Enemy," I murmured.
Mor didn't want to play. "Do you really think this will work?"
"The fairies were sure of it," I said, as reassuringly as possible.
"I know, but sometimes I don't know how much they understand about the real world."
"Their world is real," I protested. "Just in a different way. At a different angle."
"Yes." She was still staring at the Phurnacite, which was getting bigger and scarier as we approached. "But I don't know how much they understand about the angle of the every day world. And this is definitely in that world. The trees are dead. There isn't a fairy for miles."
"That's why we're here," I said.
We came to the wire, three straggly strands, only the top one barbed. A sign on it read "No Unauthorised Admittance. Beware Guard Dogs." The gate was far around the other side, out of sight.
"Are there dogs?" she asked. Mor was afraid of dogs, and dogs knew it. Perfectly nice dogs who would play with me would rouse their hackles at her. My mother said it was a method people could use to tell us apart. It would have worked, too, but typically of her, it was both terrifyingly evil and just a little crazily impractical.
"No," I said.
"How do you know?"
"It would ruin everything if we go back now, after having gone to all this trouble and come this far. Besides, it's a quest, and you can't give up on a quest because you're afraid of dogs. I don't know what the fairies would say. Think of all the things people on quests have to put up with." I knew this wasn't working. I squinted forward into the deepening dusk as I spoke. Her grip on my hand had tightened. "Besides, dogs are animals. Even trained guard dogs would try to drink the water, and then they'd die. If there really were dogs, there would be at least a few dog bodies at the side of the pool, and I don't see any. They're bluffing."
We crept below the wire, taking turns holding it up. The still pool was like old unpolished pewter, reflecting the chimney flames as unfaithful wavering streaks. There were lights below them, lights the evening shift worked by.
There was no vegetation here, not even dead trees. Cinders crunched underfoot, and clinker and slag threatened to turn our ankles. There seemed to be nothing alive but us. The star-points of windows on the hill opposite seemed ridiculously out of reach. We had a school friend who lived there, we had been to a party once, and noticed the smell, even inside the house. Her father worked at the plant. I wondered if he was inside now.
At the edge of the pool we stopped. It was completely still, without even the faintest movement of natural water. I dug in my pocket for the magic flower. "Have you got yours?"
"It's a bit crushed," she said, fishing it out. I looked at them. Mine was a bit crushed too. Never had what we were doing seemed more childish and stupid than standing in the centre of that desolation by that dead pool holding a pair of crushed pimpernels the fairies had told us would kill the factory.
I couldn't think of anything appropriate to say. "Well, un, dai, tri!" I said, and on "Three" as always we cast the flowers forward into the leaden pool, where they vanished without even a ripple. Nothing whatsoever happened. Then a dog barked far away, and Mor turned and ran and I turned and pelted after her.
"Nothing happened," she said, when we were back on the road, having covered the distance back in less than a quarter of the time it had taken us as distance out.
"What did you expect?" I asked.
"The Phurnacite to fall and become a hallowed place," she said, in the most matter-of-fact tone imaginable. "Well, either that or huorns."
I hadn't thought of huorns, and I regretted them extremely. "I thought the flowers would dissolve and ripples would spread out and then it would crumble to ruin and the trees and ivy come swarming over it while we watched and the pool would become real water and a bird would come and drink from it and then the fairies would be there and thank us and take it for a palace."
"But nothing at all happened," she said, and sighed. "We'll have to tell them it didn't work tomorrow. Come on, are we going to walk home or wait for a bus?"
It had worked, though. The next day, the headline in the Aberdare Leader was "Phurnacite Plant Closing: Thousands of Jobs Lost."
* * *
I'm telling that part first because it's compact and concise and it makes sense, and a lot of the rest of this isn't that simple.
Think of this as a memoir. Think of it as one of those memoirs that's later discredited to everyone's horror because the writer lied and is revealed to be a different colour, gender, class and creed from the way they'd made everybody think. I have the opposite problem. I have to keep fighting to stop making myself sound more normal. Fiction's nice. Fiction lets you select and simplify. This isn't a nice story, and this isn't an easy story. But it is a story about fairies, so feel free to think of it as a fairy story. It's not like you'd believe it anyway.
WEdnesday 5th September 1979
"And how nice it'll be for you," they said, "to be in the countryside. After coming from, well, such an industrialised place. The school's right out in the country, there'll be cows and grass and healthy air." They want to get rid of me. Sending me off to boarding school would do nicely, that way they can keep on pretending I didn't exist at all. They never looked right at me. They looked past me, or they sort of squinted at me. I wasn't the sort of relative they'd have put in for if they'd had any choice. He might have been looking, I don't know. I can't look straight at him. I kept darting little sideways glances at him, taking him in, his beard, the colour of his hair. Did he look like me? I couldn't tell.
There were three of them, his older sisters. I'd seen a photograph of them, much younger but their faces exactly the same, all dressed as bridesmaids and my Auntie Teg next to them looking as brown as a berry. My mother had been in the picture too, in her horrid pink wedding dress — pink because it was December and we were born the June after and she did have some shame — but he hadn't been. She'd torn him off. She'd ripped or cut or burned him out of all the wedding pictures after he'd run off. I'd never seen a picture of him, not one. In L. M. Montgomery's Jane of Lantern Hill, a girl whose parents were divorced recognised a picture of her father in the paper without knowing it. After reading that we'd looked at some pictures, but they never did anything for us. To be honest, most of the time we hadn't thought about him much.
Even standing in his house I was almost surprised to find him real, him and his three bossy half-sisters who asked me to call them Aunt. "Not aunty," they said. "Aunty's common." So I called them Aunt. Their names are Anthea and Dorothy and Frederica, I know, as I know a lot of things, though some of them are lies. I can't trust anything my mother told me, not unless it's checked. Some things books can't check, though. It's no use my knowing their names anyway, because I can't tell them apart, so I don't call them aunt anything, just Aunt. They call me "Morwenna," very formally.
"Arlinghurst is one of the best girls' schools in the country," one of them said.
"We all went there," another chimed in.
"We had the jolliest time," the third finished. Spreading what they're saying out like that seems to be one of their habits.
I just stood there in front of the cold fireplace, looking up under my fringe and leaning on my cane. That was something else they didn't want to see. I saw pity in one of their faces when I first got out of the car. I hate that. I'd have liked to sit down, but I wasn't going to say so. I can stand up much better now. I will get better, whatever the doctors said. I want to run so much sometimes my body aches with longing more than the pain from my leg.
I turned around to distract myself and looked at the fireplace. It was marble, very elaborate, and there were branches of copper birch leaves arranged in it. Everything was very clean, but not very comfortable. "So we'll get your uniforms right away, today in Shrewsbury, and take you down there tomorrow," they said. Tomorrow. They really can't wait to get rid of me, with my ugly Welsh accent and my limp and worst of all my inconvenient existence. I don't want to be here either. The problem is that I don't have anywhere else to be. They won't let you live alone until you're sixteen; I found that out in the Home. And he is my father even if I'd never seen him before. There is a sense in which these women really are my aunts. That makes me feel lonelier and further away from home than I ever had. I miss my real family, who have let me down.
The rest of the day was shopping, with all three aunts, but without him. I didn't know if I was glad or sorry about that. The Arlinghurst uniform had to come from special shops, just like my grammar school uniform did. We'd been so proud when we passed the Eleven plus. The cream of the Valleys, they said we were. Now that's all gone, and instead they're forcing on me this posh boarding school with its strange requirements. One of the aunts had a list, and we bought everything on it. They're certainly not hesitating about spending money. I've never had this much spent on me. Pity it's all so horrible. Lots of it is special games kits. I didn't say I won't be using them any time soon, or maybe ever. I keep turning away from that thought. All my childhood we had run. We'd won races. Most of the school races we'd been racing each other, leaving the rest of the field far behind. Grampar had talked about the Olympics, just dreaming, but he had mentioned it. There had never been twins at the Olympics, he said.
When it came to shoes, there was a problem. I let them buy hockey shoes and running shoes and daps, for gym, because either I can use them or not. But when it comes to the uniform shoes, for every day, I had to stop them. "I have a special shoe," I said, not looking at them. "It has a special sole. They have to be made, at the orthopaedic. I can't just buy them."
The shop assistant confirmed that we can't just buy them in the school pattern. She held up a school shoe. It was ugly, and not very different from the clumpy shoes I have. "Couldn't you walk in these?" one of the aunts asked.
I took the school shoe in my hands and looked at it. "No," I said, turning it over. "There's a heel, look." It was inarguable, though the school probably thinks the heel is the minimum any self-respecting teenage girl will wear.
They didn't mean to totally humiliate me as they clucked over the shoes and me and my built-up sole. I had to remind myself of that as I stood there like a rock, a little painful half-smile on my face. They wanted to ask what's wrong with my leg, but I outfaced them and they didn't quite dare. This, and seeing it, cheered me up a little. They gave in on the shoes, and said the school would just have to understand. "It's not as if my shoes were red and glamorous," I said.
That was a mistake, because then they all stared at my shoes. They are cripple shoes. I had a choice of one pattern of ladies' cripple shoes, black or brown, and they are black. My cane's wooden. It used to belong to Grampar, who is still alive, who is in hospital, who is trying to get better. If he gets better, I might be able to go home. It's not likely, considering everything, but it's all the hope I have. I have my wooden key ring dangling from the zip of my cardigan. It's a slice of tree, with bark, it came from Pembrokeshire. I've had it since before. I touched it, to touch wood, and I saw them looking. I saw what they saw, a funny little spiky crippled teenager with a piece of tatty wood. But what they ought to see is two glowing confident children. I know what happened, but they don't, and they'd never understand it.
"You're very English," I said.
They smiled. Where I come from, "Saes" is an insult, a terrible fighting word, the worst thing you can possibly call someone. It means "English." But I am in England now.
We ate dinner around a table that would have been small for sixteen, but with a fifth place laid awkwardly for me. Everything matched, the tablemats, the napkins, the plates. It couldn't be more different from home. The food was, as I'd expected, terrible — leathery meat and watery potatoes and some kind of green spear-shaped vegetable that tastes of grass. People have told me all my life that English food is awful, and it's reassuring that they were right. They talked about boarding schools, which they all went to. I know all about them. Not for nothing have I read Greyfriars and Malory Towers and the complete works of Angela Brazil.
After dinner, he asked me into his study. The aunts didn't look happy about it, but they didn't say anything. The study was a complete surprise, because it's full of books. From the rest of the house, I'd have expected neat old leatherbound editions of Dickens and Trollope and Hardy (Gramma loved Hardy), but instead the shelves are chockablock with paperbacks, and masses of them are SF. I actually relaxed for the first time in this house, for the first time in his presence, because if there are books perhaps it won't be all that bad.
There were other things in the room — chairs, a fireplace, a drinks tray, a record player — but I ignored or avoided them and walked as fast as I clumsily could to the SF shelf.
There was a whole load of Poul Anderson I haven't read. Stuffed on the top of the As there was Anne McCaffrey's Dragonquest, which looks as if it's the sequel to "Weyr Search" which I read in an anthology. On the shelf below there was a John Brunner I haven't read. Better than that, two John Brunners, no, three John Brunners I haven't read. I felt my eyes start to swim.
I spent the summer practically bookless, with only what I took with me when I ran away from my mother — the three-volume paperback Lord of the Rings, of course, Ursula Le Guin's The Wind's Twelve Quarters, Volume 2, which I will defend against all comers as the best single author short story collection of all time, ever, and John Boyd's The Last Starship from Earth, which I'd been in the middle of at the time and which hadn't stood up to re-reading as much as one might hope. I have read, though I didn't bring it with me, Judith Kerr's When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, and the comparison between Anna bringing a new toy instead of the loved Pink Rabbit when they left the Third Reich has been uncomfortably with me whenever I've looked at the Boyd recently.
"Can I —" I started to ask.
"You can borrow any books you want, just take care of them and bring them back," he said. I snatched the Anderson, the McCaffrey, the Brunners. "What have you got?" he asked. I turned and showed him. We both looked at the books, not at each other.
"Have you read the first of these?" he asked, tapping the McCaffrey.
"Out of the library," I said. I have read the entire science fiction and fantasy collection of Aberdare library, from Anderson's Ensign Flandry to Roger Zelazny's Creatures of Light and Darkness, an odd thing to end on, and one I'm still not certain about.
"Have you read any Delany?" he asked. He poured himself a whisky and sipped it. It smelled weird, horrible.
Excerpted from Among Others by Jo Walton, Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Copyright © 2010 Jo Walton. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love so much about this book. I love that it's character-driven rather than plot-driven. Nothing particularly happens in this novel -- a girl goes to boarding school, is shunned, writes and reads a lot, and eventually finds a few friends; the "reckoning that could no longer be put off" takes place within the confines of the last few pages, and feels. . . on the whole, slightly unnecessary. Anyone who wants action should look elsewhere. This book takes place almost entirely within the confines of Mori's head, and I love that. I love that it's about grieving, and that it's about identity, and that it's about making the best of your seriously messed up family. I love that it's about books, and that Mori engages with books, has forceful opinions about them that the reader is clearly allowed to disagree with. I haven't actually read most of the books Mori talks about (somehow I've read lots of stuff from the 60s and from the 80s on, but precious little from the 70s) but my background knowledge of the authors was enough that I didn't feel like I missed anything. Probably the only work any reader has to be familiar with is Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, because Mori uses the terms "karass" and "granfalloon" a lot before she explains them to an outsider -- but even those terms are fairly clear from the context. I love the way the magic works. . . no flashes or puffs of smoke to let you know something has happened, just a sudden string of coincidences (going back long before you cast your spell) leading to the outcome you wanted. It's the sort of magic I think makes sense in a contemporary setting with our history, and it's the sort of magic I wish there was more of in fantasy, because it seems so much more magical than the magic-by-numbers currently popular. And yes, it IS magic: Mori thinks so, and the author says so, so I see no reason to question that fact. But somehow. . . I did not quite love this book. Maybe it's because I wasn't particularly alienated as a teenager. Maybe it's because I wanted just a little bit more. . . magic, in Mori's voice, to carry through some of the boarding school drama. Or maybe this is one of those books that will hit me harder the further I get from it -- it certainly has that potential. I expected to love this book, and maybe that's why I didn't; very little can live up to the level of expectation produced by the knowledge that there's a new book by a favorite author that's getting tons of praise from other favorite authors. Whatever the case. . . I will absolutely recommend this to anyone who likes the stuff I laid out above. It's absolutely going on my keeper shelf, and I'm glad I bought it in hardcover. But it isn't quite a book that immediately carved out a place in my soul.
I have no idea why this book has been awarded the Nebula and Hugo awards. These prizes are a disservice to the author and to the reader of this novel, for they set high expectations that the book utterly fails to satisfy. This is not a book with a plot or any big ideas. It's a story of a teenage fascination with science fiction of the late 70's. Those readers who, like me, are contemporaries of the heroine will enjoy the many references to the fun books that were published then -- but they'll also notice that the book is way more of a bibliography, for apart from the odd quote, it doesn't really seem as if the heroine has actually learned anything thought-provoking from her reading. Dune is a clash of cultures? Gosh, that would never have occurred to me. If you are 45 or older, you may enjoy being reminded of all those great books that didn't survive to the ebook era. If you are 15 or younger, you might relate to the heroine or author. And those of you in that big gap in between are going to be left scratching your head at the awards this two-star book has received. It says more about the state of science fiction than anything else, I suppose.
In Wales their single mother's spell goes terribly wrong when her daughters interfered by trying to thwart the incantation. Teen Morwenna survives but is severely hurt; her twin sister was not as fortunate as she dies. Mori flees her raging mother's wrath seeking shelter with her father in England. He welcomes his daughter by immediately shipping her off to a boarding school. Feeling alone, Mori employs a spell seeking souls like her own who escape their troubles with literature. This leads her to a science fiction readers club, but Mori has no time to make friends. She senses her irate mother searches for her to kill her. Mori concludes she has no way to elude her mother much longer and has no place to hide; as her father made his feelings perfectly clear when she first arrived at his home seeking shelter and protection. Mori makes the tale with her journal focusing on her loneliness and her obsessive need to belong especially since her only friend, her twin, is dead. The teen is realistic and believes she can never truly belong though she yearns for such; as anyone who befriends her becomes instant fodder for her insane mother's wrath. That is why books are her friends. Readers will be hooked by Mori's lament that she will never really belong Among Others though that is her strongest need (Dr. Maslow would have loved to interview Mori, but her insane mom better had not found out); in many ways more so than surviving the anticipated showdown with her mother. Harriet Klausner
A coming of age story with magical realism. I really enjoyed it.
Anyone who has lived a period in which books are your only friend and guidance will understand the protagonist...imagination can be both magical and terrible at the same time and books give yoibyhe intellectual and emotional tools to take it either and both ways at the samw time.
I thought this was going to be a great read. Quiet suspense, maybe? A whole paragraph about a bus? Really? All these book names became very tiresome. I realize the plot is supposed to be about this girl, her losses, struggles, love of SF and fairies, but wow. "The Sisters Grimm" was more exciting. Half way thru and putting it down to read something else. Maybe just skip to the end to get it over with. Something I NEVER do, by the way.
This book had a lot of personal meaning to me that I won't go into here. I imagine many readers will feel the same way. I loved the way the reader is never sure if magic and fairies are just part of Mor's coping strategy, or if they are real. However, this also means it's questionably a fantasy / sci-fi book (this issue brought to the fore because this book won the 2011 Nebula Best Novel award). I also liked how Mor created and interpreted her own life and goals by using some of the structures and themes in science fiction. I don't remember reading anything like that before.
Among Others by Jo Walton, the new Nebula Award winner, is a beautiful book but awfully hard to describe. Is it a book about magic and fairies, the latter not things of beauty but "gnarly", as one character says? Or is it a book about a girl growing up in the late 70s and surpassing her parents? 16 year old Morwenna (Mori) has lost her twin sister in some terrible but (to the reader) unknown way as they battled her bad witch mother to protect themselves and apparently all of us. Mori's been shipped off from Wales to live with the divorced father she barely knows, who lives with his three odd but rich sisters. The sisters in turn ship her off to an expensive English boarding school where she does well academically but is initially disliked for her strangeness, including her limp left over from the battle.One important aspect of the book is Mori sticking to her guns (or cane) and finding her own place in the world. She's not the least bit mopey or twee; she's matter of fact, observant and direct, and not above scaring the others at school if that'll keep them respectful of her. I'm not sure even now if this isn't really a young adult novel, albeit an exceptionally well-written one. She is growing up and becoming aware of her place in the world and what must be done to maintain it. The magic in Mori's world is more the, you almost saw it out of the corner of your eye variety, almost indistinguishable from coincidence, but you (the reader) know it isn't coincidence. Unlike most of the rest of the world, Mori sees fairies, but so could we if we knew how and where to look.The author may not have set out to win the hearts of LTers, but much of what she's done will have that effect. The book is dedicated to libraries and librarians. Mori's passion in life is reading, especially science fiction and fantasy, with nods to many authors like LeGuin, Tiptree, Zelazny and Heinlein, and she also is led by her curiosity to Plato and Winston Churchill and others. The books aren't an escape, but a vivid experience (some are "brill"), a means to actively engage with like-minded others, and a way to understand her changing life.This book wasn't what I expected. It was quieter and deeper in some ways, reminding me of a more sophisticated Susan Cooper book or some of Ray Bradbury's insightful stories about young people in books like Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes. The school is barbaric, as all schools for that age seem to be, but it is surrounded by something more mysterious, woods filled with strange creatures, and ruins where they like to play. Besides her comfort in such locales, Mori finds a way to connect with young people in a nearby town via a book club in which she and her new friends passionately debate novels they love, and she experiences what may be love of a different sort. It's a good read, and it sticks with you in the way that so many books she loves stick with Mori.
I enjoyed this book about a young girl dealing with grief, disability and finding friends after suffering great loss. After the death of her twin, she is sent to boarding school where her love of books (specifically science fiction) helps her deal with her situation. A must-read for science fiction fans.
I¿m not sure where to go with this review. On one hand, I loved this book and on the other, I felt somewhat lost. Maybe not lost but not part of the story but outside it.Told through the diary entries of Mori, we come to find out she¿s now living with a father she doesn¿t know, is being shipped off to boarding school, is doing what she can to escape the magical wrath of her mother, and using books to ease the pain in her world that is both physical and mental. Having survived an accident that took the life of her twin sister, Mori lives every moment with a reminder of that day --- a shattered leg that pains her. Not interested in anything her father, her aunts, or the boarding school can offer, she sets out to find herself a place in the world. She employs a little magic to make things happen and worries each day that what she¿s done will attract the mother she¿s running from.There is one aspect to this book that I loved and that was the books. Mori is a voracious reader and I adored her love of science fiction and fantasy. I wanted to read everything she was reading. Really I¿m going to now pull that Roger Zelazny book off the shelf and read it. I swear it. This was the part of the book I fell deeply in love with. Not knowing the details of Mori¿s life and having to pick up small hints here and there made me feel as though I was on the outside --- much like Mori herself. Maybe it was an effective way to tell the story after all looking back on it.Fairies do feature in the story and I¿ve never been a fan. I love fantasy and almost all elements that go with it but fairies are sort of so-so for me. I didn¿t see the appeal but I gave Mori and her woodland friends a chance. I¿m glad I did. After finishing, I felt a much stronger tie to this book and a great appreciation for Walton¿s writing so much so that I picked up another of her books soon after. A quick skim through that book tells me I¿m going to enjoy that one too.
Following a tragedy that killed her twin sister, Morwenna Phelps leaves her childhood home of Wales, the fairies she ¿befriended there,¿ and her mad mother in order to meet her father¿s family and attend a boarding school in England. England is unfamiliar and unfriendly, and Mori finds refuge in her voracious science fiction-reading appetite. But even as she slowly connects with her long-absent father, explores the libraries and bookstores available to her, and finds friends with whom she has a love of SF in common, Mori still struggles to escape her mother¿s ever-encroaching magical madness¿You don¿t need to be an SF fan¿or know much at all about SF history, really¿to love Mori and AMONG OTHERS. This is a book that everyone who has been or is still a bookworm can relate to and delight in.Mori represents the kind of bookish teenager you want to be, your best friend to be, your teenage daughter to be. She drinks up books like water and then writes about them in her journal¿not in-depth academic analyses, but the kind of meandering way that most bookworms do naturally. I admit to knowing hopelessly little about SF, but I could definitely relate to Mori¿s somewhat scattered comments on the books she¿s finished. She¿s not trying to write a SF novel or be a SF expert; she¿s just enjoying herself wholeheartedly as an avid reader, and you can¿t help but love that.Due to its diary format, AMONG OTHERS is filled with bits and pieces of the sort of things that teenage girls wonder about: sex, their sexuality, people they meet, their future. It makes the book so genuine that there is no one primary plotline. Because it¿s like life in that way: we have many interests and thoughts and curiosities, and they all make up a part of who we are.I loved the bookish aspect of AMONG OTHERS so much that I was rather put off by its fantastical element, which I felt was almost unnecessary. The main plot, if you must name one, is Mori¿s relationship with fairies and her crazy mother. I have no problem with how fairies work in Mori¿s world: like other things that Mori writes about, the fairies are just a part of her life, just a part of her. But I do feel like the magical aspect was not the driving force of this novel, and so, in making it a significant part of the ending, I felt¿unsatisfied.AMONG OTHERS is classified as fantasy, and Mori loves SF, but it doesn¿t mean that SFF fans should be its only readers¿nor, perhaps, its most significant. AMONG OTHERS is, in my opinion, above all other plotlines, a love letter to books as salvation, and so if ever you love books, you should check this one out.
This book has deservedly won a Nebula, so to a certain extent yet another review is superfluous. The book will sell and will be remembered. However, it is fun to pick over the bones of the book and make some observations on it.It is a novel. Therefore the reader should be prepared to take the diary entries of one Morweena Phelps, Welsh teenager and precocious reader, as untrustworthy. There are obvious reasons for distrust. First, Morweena can see and talk to fairies. Now, this seems to be a metaphor for the issues hinted at within her family, as her parents are estranged, with her mother being declared a 'witch' and her (imagined?) twin sister Mori (whose name the narrator seems to appropriate) is now dead in unclear circumstances - a car accident? Throughout the novel Mori pursues a 'magical conflict' with her mother (e.g. by burning her letters) while using her father (who made a pass at her once) as a walking wallet. But the usage of 'magic' as a way of avoiding confronting trauma, seems to come unhinged when a boyfriend is taught to see 'fairies' later in the novel. Second, with this background, one would imagine that being packed off to boarding school by her father's rich sisters would be a release. But Mori hates it. The food is awful, she is bullied etc. However she effortlessly comes top in everything (bar maths) and her gammy leg gets her off games. She goes instead to the School Library where she takes solace in books and befriends the School Librarian, who is revealed as a closet SF fan. Since boarding school leads up and out to University, how terrible was it? Why stick to the cliched repressive image ofboarding schools? Another oddity of the novel is the science fiction in it, or more importantly, not in it. Set in 1979/80 it seems to inhabit the 1960s with its fascination with the New Wave. Strangely, US authors are name dropped, but not their British equivalents: so no mention of Michael Moorcock, J.G. Ballard, Brian Aldiss, Barrington J. Bayley, John Brunner, M. John Harrison, Langdon Jones, Charles Platt, etc. Were books from 'English' SF novelists banned in Wales? The unwavering reverence for 'Lord of the Rings' is symptomatic of the time and certainly chimes in with the fairy-chatter but it is as far away from New Wave (and indeed from any form of real science fiction) as it is possible to get...And so we come to the most unbelievable part of this novel. Fairies, cruel boarding schools and an American-only New Wave breaking a decade late are acceptable. But an SF reading group at a small branch library in central Wales with females (note the plural) and males (at least one of whom is dishy) is way, way, beyond the bounds of believability! Growing up 10 years earlier than the author on the other side of the UK, and having been in the library profession for many years since, SF Reading Groups in libraries were, and are, as rare as spaceships in Tolkein. Perhaps this is a past wish-fulfillment element in the novel?What this excellent novel does is play with basic elements - Welshness, family strife, school and romance filtered through science fiction and fantasy. In this novel the former seems to be associated with good experiences, the latter with bad ones. It presents a wonderful vignette, albeit highly imaginary, of the early life of a fan. I wonder how this novel will be received by current and future generations of fans though, as technology speeds up and society keeps on changing. Will anyone believe in fairies in the future?
There's been a lot of buzz about this book, which is currently on the Nebula shortlist. That acclaim is deserved.This is my first book by Walton, and it won't be the last. The book is an almost-contemporary fantasy, set in 1979-1980 in England and Wales. It's well grounded in that era, but the basic elements are timeless and defy setting. Mori is left crippled and grieving after the loss of her twin sister. She's taken away from rural Wales, where magic and fairies were a common part of her life, and dropped into a snobby boarding school. This is the opposite of the cliche of young adult books, where the girl goes off to the school and finds magic there. Every character here feels real, from her aloof father to her boarding school friends to her Grampar. I adored her relationship with her father and his father. While this book could never be classified as a romance, it does have romance in it and it's beautifully done. There's nothing mushy about it. It feels honest and real. Magic doesn't have a heavy presence in the book. It doesn't need it. The real magic here is the magic of books, as shown through Mori's obsession with science fiction and fantasy. (I experienced a meta moment as I was reading World of Ptavvs by Larry Niven at the same time as Mori read it.) There's a wonderful quote right near the end: "If you love books enough, books will love you back." That really sums up Among Others. It feels cozy and comfortable, like I stepped into Mori's life with all its beauty and awfulness, and that included her utter delight in books.Really beautiful book. This one will be a classic.
Among Others Jo Walton Tor Books January 18th, 2011 eBook 360 pages (Portrait View) ISBN-13: 978-07653-2153-4 It¿s not often I get excited about an urban fantasy novel featuring reluctant Fairies, of all things, but Jo Walton¿s Among Others gives me good reason to be thrilled. The story evolves around fifteen year old Morwenna Phelps, Mori to her friends, who is an avid Science Fiction fan(atic) and a voracious reader. After a terrible car accident, Mori is farmed out by her family to her long-absent father and is forced, under protest and duress, to attend a prestigious, all-girl private high school. To make matters worse her estranged mother, who she believes is a witch, appears to be hatching a plot to gain control over the most powerful of all magic. Did I mention that Mori can see and speak to Fairies and ghosts? And, as hard as that is to believe, it gets even better as the story develops. We are shown, through first person narrative in the form of diary entries, Mori¿s experiences at the private prep-school where she is the ultimate outsider. New to the school, disabled in the car accident, and incredibly smart and well-read for her age Mori is shunned by the popular kids and searches for friendship among the other outcasts. The back-story, hinted at in the prologue, is slowly revealed as the story unfolds. We discover that Mori¿s twin sister died in the car accident that disabled her and that she believes her mother is an evil witch who was responsible for the accident and is now prepping to become an all-powerful magical queen. Much of the story is revealed during dialogue between Mori, her outcast school friends, and members of the book club she¿s found at the local library where she happily settles in among other like-minded thinkers who also happen to be Science Fiction fans. Among Others is a perfectly paced, wonderfully crafted and imaginative tale that should appeal to the casual reader as well as to the genre specific fantasy reader. It has all the elements great stories need to thrive; identifiable characters, a unique plot, a dark layer that occasionally rises to the surface, engrossing dialogue, and an underlying mystery that is slowly exposed as the story reaches its climax. Add to that the many references to works by some of the greatest Science Fiction writers that have ever put pen to paper and you have a highly entertaining novel. On a personal note I¿d like to add that I identified closely with this story as soon as the main character began discussing the Science Fiction books that she¿d read. Her list included a veritable Who¿s Who of the most prominent Science Fiction authors of the last seventy five years. Robert Silverberg, Ursula le Guin, J. R. R Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Robert Heinlein, Roger Zelazny, Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Samuel R. Delaney, and many others are mentioned by name as are the titles of their most prominent works. Ms. Walton, who obviously knows and understands the subject matter, excels at weaving the themes and messages from those books into Among Others. (What a unique and novel idea. I secretly wish I¿d thought of it.) One of the most fascinating things about this book is that the main characters¿ list of books and authors is suspiciously familiar to me. Jo Walton¿s Science Fiction reading list is so similar to mine, in fact, that I think she must have travelled back in time to peak over my shoulder when I was developing it. Since most of the story takes place in 1979, when I was 20, there¿s no wonder our lists match so closely. I¿ve read somewhere that Among Others is semi-autobiographical and as an avid long-time Science Fiction fan myself I see no reason to dispute that. It makes perfect sense and I love the way many of the themes from classic Science Fiction stories were integrated into this story. There is a lesson to be learned here; we are what we read. I for one, wish everyone could devour Among Others and the classic Science Fiction novels menti
I loved this book. I identified with Mor in so many ways. I too was a geeky girl in the 70s who loved reading scifi and loved libraries. There is a section where Mor describes feeling like an alien compared to her peers interests which resonated with me and still does!It's not a perfect book at all - not a lot actually happens and there is no explanation of the magical aspects or what actually happened with Mor's twin and her mother. But if you need an explanation for everything, you shouldn't read sci-fi/fantasy anyway.
I just finished "Among Others" by Jo Walton. I enjoyed this book but could understand why others might not. I think if you are a science fiction fan who grew up reading all the books mentioned in this book and felt a bit of an outcast you could find this book very entertaining. Whereas, if you didn't, you very possibly won't find it that great. I'm not 100% sure I like the end scene with her sister and the fairies. Still pondering that one. I found it amusing that most of the reviews from science fiction fans liked it. One author, Elizabeth Hand, finds a number of faults with the book in her review in the Washington Post. With some of those faults, I suppose I could agree but to a lesser extent. I was a bit annoyed by "Too often Walton preaches to the literary fangirl choir." Uh, I'm male but whatever. I find the statement a little more snarky than actually true, although it is a bit, no question there. Anyway, I thought it was fun and a relatively quick read.
Mor, a teenager in 1979-1980, keeps a diary. It¿s about her sf/fantasy reading, her new life at the school she¿s been sent to by her father¿s relatives after she ran away from her disturbed mother, her dead twin, the injury she sustained in the accident that took her twin¿s life¿and also about the fairies and the magic she does with their help. It¿s not clear how much is diegetically ¿real,¿ and there¿s even some confusion about Mor¿s identity, though I didn¿t feel like that was a big deal since we never really got to know the other twin even through Mor¿s memories. It was very well done; I¿m intimately familiar with Mor¿s distanced, readerly reaction to life events, and she and I read a lot of the same books growing up. Still, I suppose I like my fantasy more fantastic.
I bought this book not knowing what it was about. It is Science Fiction, which is not usually my genre of choice-- but I really enjoyed it. There were times when the book-name-dropping got a bit annoying, but it tied in to her character so much that I could let it go. The character really, really reminded me of my Megan.
An understated character study more than a fantasy novel. Literary fantasy, I suppose. Reminded me in style of Keith Donohue's Stolen Child, with the fantastical wrapped around the edges of the story, it just is and you see how fairy tales and literature reflect the "true" fantasy elements that "exist" (enigmatic little faery creatures here, changelings in Donohue's book), but they're not really the point of the story. The novel is also a bit of a love letter to science fiction. Morwenna grew up in Wales, running around the wild countryside with her twin sister and encountering faeries all over. At 14, in 1979, she is sent to a girls' boarding school after her twin is killed, due to them blocking her mad witch mother's evildoing. The book details Morwenna's experiences at school, recovering, adjusting to her new life, growing up, dealing with a crippled leg, visiting her previously unknown father and paternal aunts, quietly trying to block her mother's attempts to do magic against her, and first and foremost, escaping into reading science fiction and classic fantasy obsessively in the school and local library (and through ILL). I have no idea why there's no booklist in an appendix. And how many books rhapsodize about interlibrary loan? A curious novel.
Mor and Mor were twins, and as close as two sisters could be. When one of them dies in a tragic accident, the other is left to create a life of her own. Mor is sent to live with her father, who has never been a presence in her life. When he sends her off to a boarding school, she feels especially cast adrift--England is not nearly as magical as her homeland of Wales! Thankfully she has two things to anchor her: the fairies who were such a part of her growing up, and the wonderful world of fantasy and science fiction books. This is an enchanting read--told as diary entries that Mor writes at school. Mostly she is pretty lonely--as the "new girl" she's not in a position to attract many friends. Thankfully she finds a haven in the library in the local town, where the librarians are very kind, and lead her to many wonderful book-reading adventures, and eventually to the library's science fiction book club, where she finally comes into her own. She still has the magic, though, that was learned from her mother, and tries to improve her life through magic, as well. When she goes back to her grandmother's, where she and Mor were raised, she makes contact with the fairies who were so much a part of her childhood, and is forced to make a final decision. Does she want to live her life, or join Mor in the land of fairy?This book just carried me away--I believed every word, and was delighted that Mor found solace in many of the best books ever written. I even found myself watching for fairies in the woods for the next several days. Magic and wonderful books--what reader could ask for more?
'Among Others' is a warm and quiet coming-of-age fantasy about a teen girl, Mori, with a tragic past who finds herself shuttled off to boarding school, where her only comfort lies in the genre books she devours avidly. Related in diary format, the novel follows her tale as she contends with her new situation and relates her daily happenings - including her numerous encounters with faeries, something that's been happening since she was a child. For her own sake, she has to find a way to integrate herself in her new environment - which proves trickier than she would have thought.One way to describe this book would be "The Diary of Adrian Mole - with faeries." It's not action packed; in fact, there's almost no drama, at least of the type one is accustomed to finding in a fantasy novel. Outside of the very first chapter, the entirety of the novel takes place a year or so after the protagonist's life-changing moment when she and her sister may have saved the world. It's a weird sort of approach to take, having the story be the follow-up rather than the drama itself, but it's done effectively. Rather than grand romping adventures we get clever, quirky observations on Mori's life as she acquaints herself with her long-lost father, copes with limited mobility due to an injured leg, and slowly makes friends at school. Her observations about her daily life are mixed with commentary on whatever she's reading and speculations on the nature of magic, something she's been able to practice since she was very young, but who's nature seems pliant and changeable depending on how one looks at it. Now this may sound boring but it's truly not. It's neat getting inside this smart young woman's mind, feeling her passion for the books that are her best friends, and venturing with her as she learns more about herself, magic and life itself. As much as it's a fantasy, it's also a book about a book-loving girl doing her best to cope with school life and harsh personal circumstances, and it works just as well on that level too. Linking the two halves together, the story's only real antagonist is Moir's mostly unseen mother, lurking far away, emanating an unspoken but definite threat. This works well both from a fantasy perspective (her mother has magic, too), and from the "coming of age" perspective (in how many such tales is a parental figure seen as the enemy?). While the "climax" felt a bit muted and unsatisfying, overall this book was more like a character study than anything, and on that level it was beautifully done, Mori's voice coming across as very real and relatable. Recommended, but not if you need lots of action.
It's a fairy story about a young woman who likes science fiction. It's a fantasy told in the far away lands of Wales and England in the 1970s (how far away? Sony Walkmen were the newest thing.) There are many anti-Potter elements--the girl, who is not orphaned but distanced from her parents, goes from a magical land to an unmagical boarding school that she dislikes, and she's bad at sports and making friends but excellent in studies and reading. She gushes intelligently about all the science...moreIt's a fairy story about a young woman who likes science fiction. It's a fantasy told in the far away lands of Wales and England in the 1970s (how far away? Sony Walkmen were the newest thing.) There are many anti-Potter elements--the girl, who is not orphaned but distanced from her parents, goes from a magical land to an unmagical boarding school that she dislikes, and she's bad at sports and making friends but excellent in studies and reading. She gushes intelligently about all the science fiction she is reading (and I obviously need to catch up on my 70s sf) and gets excited meeting other fans. I really liked the way Walton shows that sf makes you think in different ways about real world relationships--the scene at the party made me laugh, although the scene in the hotel made me say ick. There is magic here too, one that neither Mor nor the reader is sure exists, but it all hangs together. And hope for the future, like one of those 'it gets better' videos. I'm not sure how much I liked the ending: there is a part I don't really understand and a part that seem rushed, but she does wrap everything up beautifully. It's quite unlike any of her previous books. For the record, I would like Jo Walton to make scones for me one day.
What happens after you change the world? For Mori, it means going to a new school, in a new country, with a new family, while adjusting to the loss of her twin and her mobility. Reading--especially science fiction--is a consolation for her, and a further source of wonder in a world that already contains fairies and deniable, chancy magic.A moving story of a lonely young girl starting to find her way to a wider world.
This is a modern, urban Bildungsroman fantasy about growing up as a science fiction reader in Wales in the 1970s. The narrator/protagonist Mori (Morwenna) Phelps/Markova has to cope with the death of her twin sister, estrangement from her mother, a relationship with a father she barely knows, and coming to terms with her own identity and her own abilities both intellectual and magical. Not to mention growing up. Anyone who remembers being a teenager, discovering science fiction and fantasy, and fandom will recognise some aspect of themselves in this book. Mori, petulant, determined, focused, in spite of her physical limitations is a heroine with whom it is remarkably easy to identify.
I'm finding it surprisingly hard to describe the premise of this novel, so I'll just say that it's the story of Morwenna (aka Mori), a bright 15-year-old girl who reads a lot of science fiction and occasionally talks to fairies. As a fantasy novel, it's kind of interesting, partly in the way it portrays a magic so low-key and ambiguous that I sometimes found myself wondering whether it really existed at all, but mostly because in terms of the plot structure it's almost the exact inverse of a traditional fantasy story. The dramatic, world-saving adventures, while important, exist largely as alluded-to backstory or take place on the peripheries of Morwenna's life, while it's her tentative journey into that strange, enchanted realm known as real life that's the true focus. And it works surprisingly well; the more I think about it, the more subtitles I think there are to be found here.But the real appeal of the book is that it was very clearly and very deliberately written for people just like me. People, that is, who have had the experience of being bookish, SF-loving teenagers. Mori litters her narration with references to writers like Tolkien, Vonnegut, Heinlein, and Le Guin... which is to say, she speaks my language. There's a wonderful kind of nostalgia here for me as I found myself reliving memories of what it was like to read these books for the first time, losing myself in their worlds, pondering their ideas with a fresh teenage brain, and longing for other people to talk to about it all. I think that anybody for whom that resonates, anybody who read more or less these books at more or less this age, will find this one very much worth reading. What anybody else might make of it, I honestly can't imagine.