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Among Others (Hugo Award Winner - Best Novel) Paperback – January 3, 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. World Fantasy Award–winner Walton (Tooth and Claw) turns the magical boarding school story inside out in this compelling coming-of-age tale. Welsh teen Morwenna was badly hurt, and her twin sister killed, when the two foiled their abusive mother's spell work. Seeking refuge with a father she barely knows in England, Mori is shunted off to a grim boarding school. Mori works a spell to find kindred souls and soon meets a welcoming group of science fiction readers, but she can feel her mother looking for her, and this time Mori won't be able to escape. Walton beautifully captures the outsider's yearning in Mori's earthy and thoughtful journal entries: "It doesn't matter. I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books." 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. (Jan.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
With a deft hand and a blazing imagination, fantasy writer Walton mixes genres to great effect. Elements of fantasy, science fiction, and coming-of-age novels combine into one superlative literary package that will appeal to a variety of readers across age levels. After engaging in a classic good-magic-versus-bad-magic battle with her mother that fatally wounds her twin sister, 15-year-old Morwenna leaves Wales and attempts to reconnect with her estranged father. She was sent to boarding school in England, and her riveting backstory unfolds gradually as she records her thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a series of journal entries. An ominous sense of disquiet permeates the nonlinear plot as Morwenna attempts to avoid a final clash with her mother. In addition to casting an irresistible narrative spell, Walton also pays tribute to a host of science-fiction masters as she peppers Morwenna’s journal with the titles of the novels she devours in her book-fueled quest for self-discovery. --Margaret Flanagan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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There really is no plot, as this is a story told through a diary. A mystery unfolds through out the protagonist, Mor's, entries into her diary. She, of course, knows what has happened, and as the book progresses, so do we. Having no plot detracted from my overall enjoyment of the book. The pace is very slow; the story often boring. The fantasy elements are magic and fairies.
I thought Walton's take on fairies was very interesting and original. They were like feral animals. At first glance the fairies seemed approachable and human like, but once you tried to talk to them their wild untameable nature shown. Walton's explanation of magic seems the most plausible that I have ever read. In Among Others magic is complex and not easily mastered. In fact, Mor's mother tries to master it and it does not work out as she planned. Mor is constantly wrestling with whether or not to use magic and how to use it if she does. Magic seems to be something you feel rather than something you can learn to do in a step by step process. I liked that.
The biggest flaw is that 75% of the book is written referencing real life science fiction books. If you have not read pre 1980 science fiction you will be lost a lot, as I was. Mor's life revolves around science fiction novels. She interprets her life based on all of the books she's read. Often the story wanders off on lengthy musings of some science fiction book that, if you have not read, you will not understand.
Among Others reads like a diary. I got a real sense that this is an authentic person. I would not be surprised if aspects of the story were autobiographical. Mor is likable and believable. She has flaws and is not particularly heroic. One of my favorite things about reading this book was that I was never quite sure until the end whether or not Mor was actually experiencing all of the things she wrote about, or if she was insane. The ending could easily have gone either way.
And speaking of the ending, it was very abrupt. The story moves along at an even pace until about the last four or five pages. Then there is a brief bit of action and climax. It felt rushed and forced. I would have liked the story better if there had been more action and conflict throughout the story, and the ending were better developed. The last paragraph is dedicated to all of the ways Mor had grown and things she had learned about the world and herself. Prior to that last paragraph Mor had shown to be comfortable in her oddness and confident in her values and ideas. She went against the norm and statuesque. But that last paragraph tried to pigeonhole her into a simplified narrow character. I think it was an attempt by the author to tell you all of the things you should have figured out about Mor by reading the story.
Although, I did enjoy reading Among Others and over all I feel positive about it, I would not recommend it to a friend. It is obviously not for everyone. Also, I think the main reason this book won science fiction awards is that it name-dropped so many award winning science fiction books and authors. If you were a science fiction reader, maybe the book would have a great deal more meaning and depth. But, for a fiction book to really earn an award I don't think the reader should have to be an aficionado on the book's theme.
So, if you are an avid pre 1980 science fiction reader, drop everything and read this book. If your are not an avid science fiction reader, I'd pass on this one.