Saturday, January 28, 2012

Among Others

Title: Among Others
Author: Jo Walton
Genre: Fantasy
Published: 2011

Recommendation: Absolutely worth reading.
Rating: 9/10

Summary: Mori is a Welsh 15-year old girl who gets to meet her father for the first time and is immediately sent off to an upper-English boarding school by her aunts. Coping with the death of her twin sister, Mori reads an inordinate amount of science fiction.

Reactions: I ended up with mixed feelings regarding Among Others. It's certainly not a typical fantasy book. The reason I even call it fantasy is because the primary fantastic element of the book is that Mori can see and communicate with the fairies. It makes for a really interesting twist, but was really somewhat secondary to the character development that happens during the book.

First, I need to get off my chest the two reasons that this book doesn't rate 10 for me. The first is the literary technique used by the author to continually mention Mori's traumatic past without providing the comprehensive picture of what happened. I understand why it's done, but found it somewhat irritating to get the information doled out in tiny pieces and yet continually touched upon. As a reader you can figure out just enough of what happened but without getting that feeling of closure and knowing.

Which brings me to the second problem I had with the book. The book moves along on a very stately pace, in the form of Mori's almost daily diary entries. However, when it comes to the ending, we get a rather rushed and to me a somewhat baffling resolution. I was very happy with the book until the very end and then I was just left gaping and feeling the story didn't sufficiently build up towards the ending.

Other than the two gripes above, I thought Among Others was absolutely wonderful. It's told from 1st POV presented as Mori's diary and her voice is both sympathetic and believable. I could really identify with her and thought that the author captured a smart but lonely and bookish teen down to the roots of her hair. I don't think you have to have been one yourself to really like Mori's courage and good sense. At the same time, she is not at all perfect and comes off very realistic in her coming-of-age story.

There are some really good quotes in the book too:
"Bibliotropic," Hugh said. "Like sunflowers are heliotropic, they naturally turn towards the sun. We naturally turn towards the bookshop."
I don't know about you, but that generally describes my shopping patterns pretty well indeed!

The other enjoyable part of the book is that there are lots and lots of references to classic science fiction novels and Mori's musings on them. The book is set in 1979-1980 and I haven't read a number of classics that they mention (though now I have lots of notes on which ones to take a look at). But some of the classics have a place in my heart like Zelazny's Amber series and it's very gratifying to see Mori pick them up, enjoy, and dissect them. Though only the first three books of the series are yet published at the time. (I checked the dates and the first five are all published by 1980, but I guess not in England yet).

All in all, it's a very well written, whimsical tale of a girl's coming of age story that I wholeheartedly recommend. I don't believe it's a series, but if it was, I would be happy to go back for more.


  1. You're a reading beast! Could you slow down this month? You're making me feel lazy...

    9/10 is a helluva score for mixed feelings. I've heard a lot about this book in the past year.

    1. Hah, it's just a boost from all the "top reads of 2011" lists, giving me inspiration for new books.

      I was hesitating about the score for this book, but after I wrote my whole review, I decided that I really did enjoy it that much and it really has that special something that makes you still think about the book after you are done with it, that I really would want others to read it and enjoy it as I did despite some misgivings.