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.
You dont need to be an SF fanor know much at all about SF history, reallyto 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 journalnot 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 Moris somewhat scattered comments on the books shes finished. Shes not trying to write a SF novel or be a SF expert; shes just enjoying herself wholeheartedly as an avid reader, and you cant 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 its 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 Moris relationship with fairies and her crazy mother. I have no problem with how fairies work in Moris 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 feltunsatisfied.
AMONG OTHERS is classified as fantasy, and Mori loves SF, but it doesnt mean that SFF fans should be its only readersnor, 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.
Among Others is the story of a few months of a young runaway girls life, as she meets her father and his aunts for the first time, and then gets unceremoniously shipped off to an exclusive all-girls boarding school in England. An outcast from the start, branded so by her Welsh accent and affectations, she finds solace in classics of science fiction and the wonder of interlibrary loan. Oh, and her mothers an evil witch and she talks with faeries.
This book was fantastic. And I must not be the only one who thinks so, for it won the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Novel. Written as a series of chronological diary entries, we learn her history slowly: theres no explanatory exposition to speak of. And there are plenty of bits left unresolved, and others that simply exist without needing rationalization. Which, frankly, is a good thing, I think. There have been a number of magical stories Ive read lately which have completely lost their magic by the end due to needless (and poor) rationalization.
There are an innumerable number of references to science fiction from the 1960s to the 1980s. You might also take this novel as a list of good scifi in novel form. Certainly, if youve already read most of what our protagonist is discovering, you get the satisfaction of being an insider, and if you dont get the references, Im sure youd feel left out. (Id already read about half of what she was gushing over, so I felt like an insider who still came away with a great to be read list.)
Its fitting, I suppose, that the copy I read was itself from the library. Arent libraries grand?
5 of 5 stars.
I REALLY wanted to like this book. I mean, really really. But it just didn't happen for me. Towards the end I wanted to skim just to get it over with. I liked Morwenna's voice and how her disability was portrayed (how she lived with it, the impact it had on her, etc.) but the plot just bored me to tears. The fairies/magic element seemed pointless to me and entirely out of place in regards to the rest of the story. This could have been a decent fantasy or a decent "girl at boarding school who loves books" novel, but trying to combine them just made it a mess. I enjoyed the discussion of all the great sci-fi novels, but I can read a list of great sci-fi on a webpage and not have to muddle through 300-odd pages. Also her relationships with her mother and sister were just...there. The confrontation with her mother was anticlimactic and didn't really seem to affect anything. The ending was abrupt and didn't solve anything either. I'm probably being too harsh, honestly, but with the subject matter and positive reviews from people I know I was really ready to love this book, and I'm bummed that I didn't.