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Hachette Book Group (AU)
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Among Others Kindle Edition
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"A wonder and a joy. " --The New York Times
"Compelling... Never deigning to transcend the genre to which it is clearly a love letter, this outstanding (and entirely teen-appropriate) tale draws its strength from a solid foundation of sense-of-wonder and what-if." --Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Beautifully crafted... Among Others calls to those who desire a wild, magical world in place of the one they have but eventually learn that their own lives are the greatest story of all." --Bloomsbury Review
"There are the books you want to give all your friends, and there are the books you wish you could go back and give your younger self. And then there's the rare book, like Jo W alton's Among Others, that's both." --io9.com
"An utterly amazing and beautiful book." --RT Book Reviews, Top Pick--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
- ASIN : B008GQHO86
- Publisher : Corsair (20 September 2012)
- Language : English
- File size : 869 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 303 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 183,918 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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Mor's journey through a very difficult age was made harder by the circumstances she found herself in, not to mention her physical condition, her family (or lack of), friends (or lack of) - Among Others charts a girl's awakening, a slow realisation of life after that difficult age and those dreadful events. Magic, fairies and a boy made this even more real for me if that's possible.
I'm now about to embark on more Jo Walton - I will add her to my list of great SF/Fantasy writers!
Top reviews from other countries
Told through diary entries, we follow Mori as she tries to live without her twin, is moved to a posh boarding school by her estranged father and struggles with her relationship with magic. The major issue is that Mori is obsessed with books and the author constantly (and i do mean constantly) 'name drops' authors and books. Its beyond tedious and really just comes across as the author trying to let people know how well read she is. Plus, if the reader hasn't read a certain book then Mori's reference to a certain character and how she is or is not like them is totally lost on the reader. That happened to me afew times and it was deeply frustrating.
Then there's the magic elements. On the one hand i applaud the fact the author has tried to approach magic another way, its all very subtle and Mori herself struggles to describe what magic is and has her doubts if her magic has even worked. That said, there are times when it just comes off as meaningless gibberish. Some of the diary entries seem like philosophical musings, is a 15 year old girl really writing this? And even if she is, its pretty boring.
Its a shame that what was a decent idea is hindered in the telling. For readers expecting a fantasy book it probably wont have enough fantasy elements. Ultimately, it seems that this book was written so the author could go on about Wales and list the books she's read, the result of which is that interesting aspects of the story are pushed onto the back burner.
Morwenna has run away from her insane and dangerous mother in the Welsh valleys and been returned to her long absent father and his reserved English sisters in Shropshire, where she is promptly dispatched to boarding school.
Mor's diary recounts both her new life and the past which brought her here, telling the story of how she and her sister Morganna, killed in an accident that left Mor badly injured, and the fairies that the sisters have grown up seeing, fought the evil that her mother tried to perpetrate. She also tells of her love of science fiction, her inability to fit in, and her feelings for a boy named Wim whom she meets at the library on a rare visit away from the school.
But Mor's battle against evil isn't over, and her dealings with the fairies not yet done.
I really enjoyed the book, the writing was good but a little strange and jarring in places. Not sure if that was the author herself faltering slightly or a device she used for Mor's diary. I felt a lot was unexplained. We don't really know what Mor's mother did, or how she did it, what Mor herself was capable of or what really was happening right at the end. We don't know if every word Mor writes is true or if she is as deranged as her mother, Liz, is portrayed to be. We don't know what she sees when she sees the fairies, if they are real or if she is a lonely, damaged girl clutching at childhood fantasies to comfort herself and help her cope with tragedy and change. We can choose to believe or to wonder. But whatever you believe by the end of the book, Mor is a great character, interesting, ahead of her time, ahead of her peers, and her passion for her books and desire to learn is lovely and inspiring.
I really didn't want this book to end and would love to know more. There's plenty left to find out, about the other characters who were also interesting (Sam, Daniel, the aunts, Auntie Teg) and plenty to find out about what Liz did and how she did it, why she did it, what she thought she would achieve and what she might do next.
The descriptions of Wales and the valleys were fascinating and the sense of time and place was excellent.
It starts well - the first-person journal of 15-year-old Mori, who has lost her twin sister in an accident caused by her black magic mother in an incident involving fairies and an explosion. The details aren't entirely clear, but we catch up as Mori moves away from the maternal side of her family to meet her father Daniel (who left when she was a baby) for the first time and attend a private girls school in Oswestry in 1979. Mori has a passion for reading, especially SF, and we watch as she ingratiates herself into an SF book club which meets weekly. Her father also reads avidly and there are many, many mentions of SF books - Zelazny, Heinlein, Le Guin, Silverberg and many other authors are referenced in mostly glowing terms.
There are some wonderful tributes to authors, books and libraries. I loved libraries when I was young and I think the author did as well. "Interlibrary loans are a wonder of the world and a glory of civilisation" enthuses Mori, breathlessly, but I can't help but agree with her.
But there are some problems for me with this book. Firstly there is less a plot, than a series of opportunities to mention books. And the interesting part of the back story (witch mother, dead twin) is never explored in any detail and we are left to guess most of it. The fairies themselves are actually quite well done, being difficult to both see and converse with. But there is a lack of direction and climax and lots of muddled characters (all the extended family members seem to blur into one, no matter what side of the family they hail from). Astonishly what appears to be an attempted sexual assualt is casually dismissed by Mori and never mentioned again.
I did enjoy the commentary on books and the fact that she realises that the Number of the Beast is not classic Heinlein (it was this book that put me off him for the first time) and has to be told about his right wing tendencies (I didn't get that at her age). And I like most of the authors she likes, so I did like thinking "yes, I read that and I liked it too" whenever she mentioned a book I liked.
I didn't read any of the Hugo and Nebula award finalists that this book managed to beat, but I have to say that Among Others can't hold a candle to the masterpieces of yesteryear - Le Guin's The Left Hand Of Darkness and The Dispossessed (both referenced within this book in glowing terms) tower above it.
I did see one review mention that this was a YA offering and I can see that might be the case, but it was not mentioned in the publicity or book description and I might have approached with less expectation if I had know this.
Ultimately I think there was a missed opportunity here for a clever book about how out imaginations can lead us astray and towards the end I thought the author was about to take that step, but she shied away from it and I was disappointed.
3 stars for all the memories and something fairly well imagined and constructed, but no more I'm sad to say.
At the heart of it, lurking in her subconscious, is the demise of her twin, rendered unspeakable and referred to indirectly, and her connection to the fairy folk, mentioned in a non-magical way, which makes the extraordinary ordinary, and perhaps more believable for the lack of fuss with which it is dealt with. Along the way, we learn that her mother is a witch, when a schoolmate asks her about her photos which her mother has burnt the part with her sister away. We know not whether to believe her because prior to this she lets on that her mother may have found her through the things she owns, as if through magic.
What anchors the novel in reality is ironically, the narrator's escape into science fiction novels. Morwenna is an avid reader and it is clear that Walton too, is a huge SF fan and many of the books referred to are discussed in some detail, like mini book reviews in their own right. Real authors and real novels that deal with future worlds and alternative realities are strangely juxtaposed against Morwenna's own fantastical (but nonetheless) real world. While this works well, there is a sense of the story lacking a centre and the plot with her sister and mother is constantly deferred in favour of discussion about these SF novels.
The writing is inconsistent, with sentences that sound clumsy, and some editing problems where an extra preposition or two interrupts the flow of writing. Quite a surprise for a novel that is so highly regarded. Overall, it was a patchy though interesting work.
It's fair to say that not much happens in the novel and it's mostly about what Mori thinks; however, I think it's unfair to say that as a criticism. While I was uncertain about where things were going at times I never once felt that I was unwilling to keep on going. I don't want to say that the end came out of nowhere, but I did notice that I was at the 90% mark with some surprise. I would have happily continued reading, but I didn't need to in order to feel that the novel had come to a satisfactory end. There is a climax, of course. But it could have been delayed and I would have been happy. As the novel comes from Mori's perspective, the other characters can seem a little flat at times, but this flatness is the understanding of the narrator, her inability to comprehend motives and impulses. It comes across as a real snapshot from a real person's life, which may be because it is in some way autobiographical, even if it is entirely unclear how far this extends.
If I were forced to be critical, I'd note that there are some unfortunate representations in the categories of gender and sexuality. But there are similar comments about disability, despite the disabled protagonist. The book is set in the seventies, and has the air of a memoire as much as a novel - what it describes is lived experience, not a manual for socially responsible behaviour. It's lived experience with fairies, but still reads authentically. As a genuine criticism, the subplot with Wim deserves some attention. <spoiler>Wim is the beautiful young man Mori meets at her SF book club, whom she discovers may have got a girl pregnant and then abandoned her. There are some complexities to the story, but ultimately she concludes that Wim deserves the benefit of the doubt, and that the girl in question was as or more responsible for the pregnancy scare than he was. The book is set in the late seventies. I cannot expect the protagonist to be flawless. But it sits uncomfortably that a young woman is being presented as a liar, or at least more responsible for birth control than her sexual partner, and that everyone believed her that the partner is question was a terrible man, which is not the usual narrative. Writing this on 19/11/2014, I can report that in today's news a CNN reporter tried to tell a woman how she could have avoided being raped, but as far as I am aware did not tell the accused rapist how he could have avoided committing rape. The events in the novel are not that bad. But I can't feel comfortable with the disproportionate and unrepresentative discussion of this issue which the novel presents</spoiler>.
For most people who can really empathize with Mori, and I suspect particularly those who are a similar age, this book deserves a five star review. However, differing on <i>The Lord of the Rings</i> (although feeling largely similar about <i>[book:The Inverted World|142181]</i>), being a materialist atheist who largely won't process the magical, and not having read much SF when I was quite that young, I can only give it four stars for being an enjoyable read with someone I think I would like to have around.