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Among Others

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Fantasy (2011)
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 science fiction, 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 and her twin sister 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. When her mother tries to bend the spirits to dark ends with deadly results, Mori is sent away and must try to come to terms with what has happened without falling prey to the darkness.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published January 18, 2011

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About the author

Jo Walton

95 books2,851 followers
Jo Walton writes science fiction and fantasy novels and reads a lot and eats great food. It worries her slightly that this is so exactly what she always wanted to do when she grew up. She comes from Wales, but lives in Montreal.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,492 reviews
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews779 followers
November 30, 2020
Now and then I come across a book that is a distillation of what I like in fiction, genre fiction in particular. I previously raved about Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and then some people told me they think it's a load of ol' crap. It puzzled me a bit that some people don't see the greatness of the books I deemed to be great, but then I realize that such things probably puzzle most of us, we are all arbiters of good taste in our own little universe. So given that after reading this book you may not agree with my assessment of it (much to my astonishment) I am going into "rave mode" again.

Firstly I am going steal SF Signal's one sentence synopsis:

"A teenaged girl in 1979 deals with her witch of a mother, faeries, a difficult boarding school life, and the joys of discovering science fiction and fantasy."

Any mention of boarding school and fantasy in the same sentence will tend to trigger the name "Harry Potter" in people's minds, well you can fuggedaboudit, it's just an ordinary boarding school, no Defence Against the Dark Arts classes here. In fact, the setting of the boarding school resonates with me very much as a former pupil of such a school. It is a tough environment for geeky sci-fi loving kid that I was and Morweena— the protagonist and narrator of this book—is. The loneliness, the bad food, the discovery of like-minded friends all ring very true to me.

From the synopses of this book at Goodreads, Amazon etc. fantasy fans are probably unsure whether this really is a fantasy novel at all and not just some rambling of a delusional girl. Well, the author has stated clearly in interviews that the fantasy element is not meant to be ambiguous, even if it may seem that way. You see, Jo Walton has done something very different with the so-called "magic system" trope here. In the universe of this book, the magic is very discreet and always has "plausible deniability" in that the effect of the magic may look like a normal coincidence. This makes the magic even more dangerous than in your average fantasy epic, the effect can be devastatingly wide ranging with everybody none the wiser about the cause. I am not going to give any example of this, it is really worth discovering by yourself.

The most important aspect of this book is that it is a love letter to science fiction and fantasy books, I have never seen so many books and authors mentioned in a single book and they are mostly books I am very familiar with. Like Asimov's Foundation, Delany's Babel 17, Tolkien's LOTR etc. At the time the story is set, in late 1979 and early 1980 fantasy was not the massively popular genre it is today and the fantasy books were far outnumbered by the sf books, so interestingly this book is actually about a science fiction reader in a fantasy world. Most of the books mentioned are sci-fi classics with only the odd LOTR and Narnia books thrown in. The little comments about the books and the love the author via her characters show for the books make me want to read sf/f until my eyes fall out.

The book is beautifully written in eloquent yet fairly simple prose in an epistolary format (diary entries), the characters are very well developed and believable. I can actually imagine what it feels like to be a teenage disabled girl in spite of my many disqualifications for identifying with such a character. As I understand it the story is partly autobiographical in that many of the key events are based on Ms. Walton's own experiences as a teenager. I found the climax to be oddly conventional in its spectacularity and it does not seem to conform with the relative quietude of the preceding chapters. Still, no real harm done.

Jo Walton clearly loves the sf/f genre and reading in general with a passion, a feeling I share and this book is another one to be cherished.
A solid 5 stars for a well deserved 2011 Nebula Awards Winner.


Further reading:
Jo Walton's Q&A at Io9
Bibliography for Among Others
Jo Walton's The Big Idea article

Update, September 4, 2012
Among Others just won the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Novel, a few months prior to that it won the Nebula Award. It has also been nominated for the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. That should be enough accolades for anyone considering reading this book!
Profile Image for carol..
1,532 reviews7,856 followers
March 8, 2019
A love letter to science fiction and fantasy, to books and to librarians:

"We never looked anything like anyone in our family, but apart from the eye and hair color I don't see anything. It doesn't matter. I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books."

A support letter to adolescence, and to girls alienated from their families:

"So then I realised guiltily how my very presence in his car was actually a huge reproach. For one thing, there is only one of me, when he abandoned twins. For another, I am crippled. Thirdly, I am there at all; I ran away. I had to ask for his help--and worse, I had to use the social services to ask for his help. Clearly, the arrangements he made for us were far from adequate. In fact, my existence there at that moment demonstrated to him that he is a rotten parent."

and to girls alienated from their schools:

"If the school was going out of their way to try to detach us from magic, they couldn't organize things better. I wonder if that was someone's original intention... We don't have our own plates, or our own knives and forks or cups. Like most of what we use, they're communal, they're handed out at random. There's no chance for anything to become imbued, to come alive through fondness. Nothing here is aware, no chair, no cup. Nobody can get fond of anything."

Walton's writing is astonishing; it impeccably captures the voice of a 15 year old Welsh girl, Morwenna Markova, after she is sent to England to live with her estranged father and then immediately dispatched to boarding school. Books have been a life-long source of enjoyment and solace, and sustain her through the loss of her twin. She is both naive and worldly, with that bookish sort of experience that is not backed by the experience of real life:
"A Polish Jew! I am part Polish. Part Jewish? All that I know about Judaism comes from A Canticle for Leibowitz and Dying Inside. Well, and the Bible, I suppose."

Fans of fantasy and science fiction will love the multitudes of references to genre classics, from LeGuin to McCaffrey to Zelazny and Vonnegut. Literary references are veiled--Mor and her sister call factory near them Mordor, as it "looked like something from the depths of hell, black and looming with chimneys of flame"--and overt--Mor frequently interprets the world according to authors she has read: "Robert Heinlein says in Have Spacesuit, Will Travel that the only things worth studying are history, languages, and science." Librarians become allies in Mor's adjustment to England, and through them, she discovers other like-minded souls.

However, there is also something about the writing that is distancing, perhaps because of Mor's own emotional distance, perhaps because the narrative about the fairies is enigmatic, or perhaps because the overtones of fear in dealing with her mother that aren't realized. There is an awkward exploration of sexuality, perfectly age-appropriate, but uncomfortable, and relationships that doesn't quite weave in as smoothly as I would have liked. Whatever it was, it prevents me from that emotional connection that characterizes my five-star reads.

Walton is an interesting writer, and is content to leave questions lying around, unanswered. If you are the sort of reader that likes wrapping with neat bows, this may not suit you. Still it is intriguing, and will undoubtedly win a second or third full read down the road.

Quite a surprise, and one of the more unusual pieces I've read. Four and a half unreliable stars.

Cross posted at http://clsiewert.wordpress.com/2013/0...
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,867 reviews16.5k followers
September 14, 2019
This is one of those books that I think of frequently, it has stayed with me.

Walton has blessed this work with a strong female lead and is minimalistic, meaning that most of the action, what little there is, is subtle and underplayed. Yet it is a hypnotic book to read, Jo Walton does a great job of characterization, economically describing the cast in such a way that the reader knows the populace, yet there are few one dimensional characters.

Of course the aspect of the book that gets so much attention (rightfully so) is the ubiquitous references to science fiction literature. Akin to Ernest Cline's novel Ready Player One, the narrative at times takes a back seat to Walton's streaming sci-fi reminiscences. Whereas Cline took us back to the 80s, Walton waxes nostalgic through a list of science fiction and fantasy greats.

No wonder now, looking back, that this won the Hugo, it's that good.

** 2018 - This is a book for readers. Walton's ongoing list of cool SF books weaved into the storyline and the themes of reading akin to magical realism makes this a very special and fun book. I may need to re-read some time.

Profile Image for Nataliya.
743 reviews11.8k followers
April 27, 2023
“This is for all the libraries in the world, and the librarians who sit there day after day lending books to people.”
I'm not quite sure how to describe this book, what precisely it is - but it has that *something* that is making me read it for the third time in as many years, and each time it finds a new way into my heart.
“There are some awful things in the world, it’s true, but there are also some great books.”
This is a love ode to books and libraries, and the magic of stories, and the unashamed homage to so many science fiction classics, and the perfect understanding that "If you love books enough, books will love you back."
“Half way,” Glorfindel said, and he didn’t mean I was half dead without her or that she was halfway through or any of that, he meant that I was halfway through Babel 17, and if I went on I would never find out how it came out.
There may be stranger reasons for being alive.”

It is also an offbeat story of a girl who grew up seeing fairies in Wales, walking a thin line between magic and mundane - or perhaps, just playing it all in her overactive and slightly unstable imagination.
“And it was the landscape that formed us, that made us who we were as we grew in it, that affected everything. We thought we were living in a fantasy landscape when actually we were living in a science fictional one.”
It is a story about adjusting to the life in which you are an outsider, where you stick out like a sore thumb, an outsider still stripped raw from the death of the twin sister who was a part of you more than others could ever understand and from the shattering your life took both physically and emotionally.
"Twins are clones, too. If you looked at an elm tree you’d never think it was part of all the others. You’d see an elm tree. Same when people look at me now: they see a person, not half a set of twins."

“I have finished with saving the world, and I never expected it to be the slightest bit grateful anyway.”
It's a story of learning to live with the physical and mental pain and learning to redefine a new normal for yourself, burying all the possibilities from before and trying to focus on the realities of now.
“It’s too late for that now. I’m going to grow up and she isn’t. She’s frozen where she is, and I’m changing, and I want to change. I want to live. I thought I had to live for both of us, because she can’t live for herself, but I can’t really live for her. I can’t really know what she’d have done, what she’d have wanted, how she’d have changed.”
It's a story of painful search and longing for people who are *yours*, your karass, who will understand you and accept you and be there for you even when everything is crashing down around you.
"Being left alone—and I am being left alone—isn’t quite as much what I wanted as I thought. Is this how people become evil? I don’t want to be."

“Bibliotropic,” Hugh said. “Like sunflowers are heliotropic, they naturally turn towards the sun. We naturally turn towards the bookshop.”
And it's a story of the aftermath, of what happens after climax of the 'before' story had been achieved and the survivors are left to pick up the pieces of their lives.
“[...] When I needed someone, somehow that net of family that I counted on to be there for me, the way you might bounce down to a trampoline, disappeared, and instead of bouncing back I hit the ground hard.”
Don't look for much of conventional plot here - that's been left behind in the story that Mori only alludes to, the story after the climax of which we join in. This is Frodo's life after the Scouring of the Shire, as Mori notes.
“Tolkien understood about the things that happen after the end. Because this is after the end, this is all the Scouring of the Shire, this is figuring out how to live in the time that wasn’t supposed to happen after the glorious last stand. I saved the world, or I think I did, and look, the world is still here, with sunsets and interlibrary loans. And it doesn’t care about me any more than the Shire cared about Frodo.”

Don't look for conventional magic or fantasy or you'll be sorely disappointed. Mori's world is full of very vague, very subtle 'magic' that you can easily rationalize as either the remnants of magical thinking of childhood or perhaps a way her traumatized mind comes to rationalize the trauma that left her broken - or, if you want to be cruel, perhaps some of the seeds of madness that, if we believe Mori, possess her mother, the woman who persistently burns one of her daughters out of the photographs that she sends to her.

Don't be frustrated by the constant name-checking of endless pre-1980 science fiction and the entire journal entries comprised of little but Mori's precocious thoughts and impressions of them.
“One of the things I’ve always liked about science fiction is the way it makes you think about things, and look at things from angles you’d never have thought about before.”
Yes, it does help if you have read at least some of them. Yes, it's precisely the wealth of books that remains at the heart of this story about finding self in the world that is not rushing to meet you with open arms. Yes, there will be more about books and Mori's impressions of them than any other plot strands. It's the strange beauty of this book, and it's the heart of it.
“Interlibrary loans are a wonder of the world and a glory of civilization.
Libraries really are wonderful. They’re better than bookshops, even. I mean bookshops make a profit on selling you books, but libraries just sit there lending you books quietly out of the goodness of their hearts.”

Mori Phelps (Morwenna? Morganna? You tell me, I'm still confused by the implications of a couple of seemingly throwaway and yet deeply significant lines in the book) needs to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and learn to live with the aftermath, and not just simply live but be herself, find friends, thrive, find new things that matter, make new post-aftermath hopes and fears, come to peace with her losses and move on while still keeping what's dear to her in her heart.

And if sometimes the reasons to pick yourself back up and keep going are strange and unusual - well, so be it.
“And here I am, still alive, still in the world. It’s my intention to carry on being alive in the world, well, until I die. [...] I’ll live, and read, and have friends, a karass, people to talk to. I’ll grow and change and be myself. I’ll belong to libraries wherever I go. [...] Things will happen that I can’t imagine. I’ll change and grow into a future that will be unimaginably different from the past. I’ll be alive. I’ll be me. I’ll be reading my book.”
Wonderful book, unusual, subtle and memorable, a tribute to the time of searching for books in the bookstores and libraries and not knowing what will come your way, and forever a tribute to the times of searching for yourself in life and really having no idea what will come your way.

5 stars.
Profile Image for Nicky.
4,138 reviews1,009 followers
February 3, 2011
I tried to write this review without spoilers, but it depends on what you consider to be spoilers. I think it's a book based more on characters than events, and I don't think knowing some of the events will spoil the whole, but you might want to exercise a bit of caution...

Among Others feels like a book written just for me. The protagonist, Mori, is Welsh, disabled, synaesthetic, listens to folk music, reads SF and fantasy (reads anything and everything)... She says, early in the books, that, "It doesn't matter. I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books." She speaks casually and without bigotry about LGBT people, thinks about religion, and thinks positively -- at least mostly so -- about sex. She's at an English school, a private school with traditions and expectations and such a very middle class air. And her world is a world with room for all of this, for everything we know in our everyday lives, and also for magic.

It's a book written after the climax of the story, really. Mori's fantastical adventures have come to their climax, and now she has to live with the consequences. She says that it's like life after the Scouring of the Shire. And she does have huge consequences to live with: she has her own injury, and the death of her twin sister, to come to terms with.

It's a book about an ordinary girl, in many ways, and most definitely about an ordinary world. Magic comes through the cracks, but most of the time Mori has to live with things just the way we all do, catching buses and trains, and being excited about the latest books by her favourite authors coming out. And about being attracted to boys, too -- though in many ways this book is as much a love story about a girl and the interlibrary loan system as it is about a girl and a boy. It's a book about books, as much as anything else, maybe more than anything else. Mori talks about everything she's reading, often with astute comments about it all. I want to find and read some of these books, and try to find the same magic in them as the protagonist of Among Others does.

There were two things I didn't connect with as well, and they don't detract from it enough to deduct a star, even though they seem to be the things I have the most to say about. One is that the final confrontations feel very abrupt. Part of that is Mori's matter of fact narration, and part of it is that it does come up very suddenly, after a lot of "real world" concerns and preoccupations -- it seems to jar against the rest, there. I would almost prefer the book without closure, without climax, because it is a story written after the world didn't end, and Mori is living with the consequences.

The other thing, which I think is well articulated by this review, is that Mori's mother is a complete stereotype of a neglectful, mentally ill mother. As I said to that reviewer, part of that could be that Mori is only just learning about shades of grey -- it is in the last fifty pages or so that she says that children are better tools for fairies because they don't see in shades of grey; for most of the book, she doesn't see in shades of grey, she is in the process of learning to do so. Mori sees the world in the way it might be seen in children's fantasy -- a point she makes for herself about Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising (although she is somewhat wrong: there are shades of grey in that sequence, too) -- where things are black and white, and there is a definite bad guy. She's fifteen years old, not an adult yet, and she is just growing toward a more nuanced view of the world. So I think it is partially that which informs the portrayal of her mother, and there are some subtle things, maybe that you only see when you know them from the inside, that hint at Mori's fears and the things her mother has done to her. The ones that I mentioned to the other reviewer are what particularly struck me: the way she disguises taking a book from the shelf, fearful of her mother's knowing, and also the way she says that she makes sure not to give anything away (at school), because it will be used against her. Those are thought patterns you get from being bullied/abused, in my experience.

At the same time, it takes work to see the potential subtleties in the portrayal of Mori's mother -- it's all too easy to just take Mori at her word, and it is discomforting to wonder about how much of that is intentional and how much is just internalised by the author.

Overall, though, I loved the book. I read it with my teddy, Helen, at all times, because it felt somehow wrong to read something that spoke to my teenage self without her -- this book really felt written for me, and I could talk about it for hours, if given the chance. One of my favourite things, though, was the very last line -- it feels almost bathetic, and yet at the same time, so perfect for Mori, so perfect for the story, and so perfect for me. The whole book was immensely easy to read, and I wish I'd been able to just set aside a few hours and blast right through it -- most of what happens in it is just ordinary life, but Mori's voice is well done and it's all quite magical, even the parts that aren't meant to be, because there's magic in reading and talking about reading and reading about reading.
Profile Image for BlackOxford.
1,081 reviews68.1k followers
May 17, 2020

Excellent YA reading with acute relevance to us oldies as well. A fifteen year old girl from the Welsh valleys learns about life, death, sex, love and friendship. Handicapped in mysterious circumstances, estranged from her mother for equally mysterious reasons, Morwenna has to cope with everything from family blending to the trials of social isolation at an English girls’ school.

But mostly Among Others is about Morwenna’s irrepressible attraction to books, especially to the imaginative construction of alternative worlds in sci-fi. These take up where her younger fantasies of faeries leave off. “We thought we were living in a fantasy landscape when actually we were living in a science fictional one.” Faeries after all are very knowledgeable but they can’t do much in the world of people, not without help.

Morwenna loves fantasy but despises allegory. Things are what they are and are degraded by being made to stand for other things. “Fiction’s nice. Fiction lets you select and simplify,” she says. Fiction, in other words, explains things. It helps a person get from a magical view of the world of a child to the realism of adulthood, without the loss of one’s imagination, including one’s moral imagination: “One of the things I’ve always liked about science fiction is the way it makes you think about things, and look at things from angles you’d never have thought about before.”

Books are the centre of Morwenna’s existence: “Sometimes it feels as if it’s only books that make life worth living.” Her judgment has been honed by reading all the best writers and understanding what makes them the best. Through her reading she also finds others who are sympathetic to her tastes and ways of thinking. By understanding them she understands herself and her situation. It is not an overstatement to say that she is redeemed through her reading.

Walton’s epigram for Among Others is a subtle mis-quote from Virgil’s Aeneid: “et haec olim meminisse iuvabit,” that is “it will be a joy to remember these things some day.” She has left out the important first word of Virgil’s original: ‘Forsan’ in Latin; ‘Perhaps’, in English. For Walton, there is no perhaps about Morwenna’s life. She will always find joy in what she has read and what it has done for her life.
Profile Image for Infinite Jen.
83 reviews285 followers
December 19, 2022
Deep personal pain is a lonely affair. It may be the loneliest condition a person can experience. Our respective traumas, varying in degree and kind, are all highly idiosyncratic. No one can experience it for us, or truly with us. There exists a gulf between humans that is unbridgeable. I’m sure everyone of you has seen it open up between you and a loved one when a bit of bad news breaks. When the sick and grieving reach out to you from the plateaus of their unique circumstances and want, more than anything, for you to fully understand and sympathize. And although your attempts to reach across are often enough to help that person endure, you know that your empathy is limited (perhaps for sound reasons) and you cannot take their burdens on for them. That’s why I find it so remarkable when a book appears which circumvents these limitations and speaks to you directly with all the requisite nuance to convince you that you are not actually alone. That, somehow, this author knows you as if they’d worn your own skin, their brains lit by coruscating constellations of thought which perfectly mirror your private reflections. It is no exaggeration to say that, for some of us, this astonishing empathy technology is what allows us to continue living. This book is an ode to that unique power, and will speak directly to anyone whose love of the written word has seen them through life’s upheavals.

For those of you who also grew up consuming (in my case, my grandad (and father’s) formidable library of Golden and New Age speculative classics) dog-eared science fiction like delectable, and highly uniform fructose exclamatory phonetics punctuated by colorful buoys of marshmallow, you will experience increased metabolic activity in several regions of the brain, particularly the frontal, limbic, paralimbic, and midbrain areas, which is to say; enter a state colloquially known as “nostalgic as fuck”. Morwenna, the feature character in this coming of age tale, (and impressively rendered thought doppelgänger who I found synchronously vibrating to the tune of bibliophilic reverence), writes in intimate diary style of her travails as a young, weird, fiercely intelligent girl having to struggle with her estranged and alien family, her physical disability, the trauma of severe loss, and the howling menagerie of adolescent bugbears which make our emotions serpentine in the manner of (borrowing from the series Archer in which Babou, surrealist painter Salvador Dali’s pet ocelot, is being pursued by Canadian Mounties and continues to evade their shots with preternatural zigzagging) a crepuscular piss-cat. Throughout the tale (which, is partly a vehicle for Walton’s autobiographical sketches, part fantasy in which the fairy tale elements could be real or could be the product of a damaged psyche trying to process trauma (this question is never resolved fully), sublimated in the aludel of boarding school induced self synthesis) Morwenna waxes profusely (and damn beautifully) about her love of books and their ability to propel one forward despite physical reality’s rather obdurate and unassailable position as supreme itinerant blighter. Her opinions on prominent works in the genre are an absolute delight to read.

This is a love letter to science fiction and fantasy and its importance in people’s lives. (that’s right you pitiable creatures who eschew the fantastical and speculative in order to reach for yet another ‘serious’ work of navel gazing literary fiction, replete with clichés of suburban housewives and their criminally boring ennui, trying to find purchase on your neck with every shovel full of pages you relieve from their wretched graves, revealing bit by bit the haggard zombie at bottom with it’s clawed hands yearning to grip and wring all the excitement out of your body until you’re a desiccated washcloth unable to reabsorb enough thrills to properly participate in showerly exfoliation!) Chances are that you’ve read quite a few of them yourself and will enjoy the insightful trips down memory lane when they’re discussed in Mori’s SF club.

A curious comparison occurred to be the other day. After talking to someone about the people of Annares building a habitable community on a barren moon in The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin, I thought of the a quote (of limited scientific credibility) which says that the person you are is a composite of your five closest friends, owing to the sociability of a species and our desire to belong. It seemed more accurate, in the case of avid readers, to say that we are a mélange of our favorite characters, a medley of the seemingly limitless conceptual landscapes we’ve traversed and the topological novelties we’ve encountered therein. Those of us with access to libraries and online resources are able to converse with the greatest minds in history on any topic which piques our interest and inhabit perspectives which align or depart from our own across the intellectual spectrum. We gain fluency in imaginary worlds and peoples and see the outcomes of large scale social experiments. We bear witness to the power of unrealized technologies which reshape or destroy us. We watch civilizations rise and fall and individuals of infinitely diverse backgrounds live and die. Joe Walton’s Among Others is a wonderful celebration of this unique gift.
Profile Image for Jebediah.
206 reviews230 followers
January 7, 2012
i am at a total loss about how this book got published. this is not a book! in the sense of a novel, i mean. it's the diary of an articulate, well-read sci-fi diehard teenager talking about what she did and what she read every day for a year. this account of her every day life is sprinkled with unimpressive encounters with fairies, because apparently in this world, welsh people are kinda down with spirit creatures.

the other reason this isn't a book is that it's an epilogue to a story we never get to hear. mori, our main gal, is living with a father she barely knows and in boarding school having fled from her evil witch (literal, not metaphorical) mother. why? well, sometime before mori's boring daily diary begins, there was a huge magical battle between good (mori & her twin sister) and evil (the mother), which left mori with a bad leg and a dead sister. you'd think that at least some of the book would explain why the mother was evil, why she hated her kids, why she waged magical war on them, and just generally, what kind of magic we're talking about. but nada. no explanations of any sort -- for ANYTHING.

instead, this is what we get: school sucked today. my classmates are so lame. today, my mother tried to kill me in my sleep. that sucked, too. my leg hurts. i went to the woods and talked to a fairy. but they're really cryptic. wow, ursula le guin's awesome. this lesbian is hitting on me but i'm straight. how can anyone think heinlein is authoritarian? i wish i knew my father were better. i touched this guy's dick at a party and he called me a slut so guess i won't be seeing him again. my grandad's pretty cool though. i miss my sister but i want to live. let me go re-read lord of the rings for the six hundreth time. sci-fi book club, yay! my aunts keep trying to get my ears pierced. but you can't see fairies if your ears are pierced. i think my aunts are evil.

i am not exaggerating. this is the entire book. WTF. i'm really kind of bitter because i kept a journal growing up. maybe if i added the occasional gnome on the side, i could get that published, too?
Profile Image for Brooke.
537 reviews289 followers
May 10, 2011
I keep going back and forth between 2 and 3 stars. I should have really loved this book, but I found myself more annoyed than charmed. Although it appears we're supposed to take the main character's story at face value and believe that the magic and fairies and her evil mother are real, I found myself writing it all off as her way of coping with a more mundane unstable mother and car accident. I think what pushed me over the edge into disbelief was the scene with the aunts and the earrings. I mean, what was that except some belligerent child who's playing make believe and throwing a tantrum? And we're supposed to believe she's 15! And as much as I love books, read and eat and breathe books, I wanted her to get her head out of them and be in the real world for a bit and have conversations that were real. There's something to say for being a well-rounded person with multiple interests. I realize I sound awfully harsh regarding a fictional girl whose twin just died; maybe it was the over-use of the word "brill" to describe everything she liked. You'd think someone who read so much would have a larger vocabulary!
Profile Image for Sherwood Smith.
Author 167 books37.5k followers
December 10, 2020
When I first finished Jo Walton’s to Among Others, there was this instinctive pang of hurt at being left out because when I met Walton in Tempe for World Fantasy a few years back, she didn’t tell me about the fairies.

A heartbeat later my reasoning brain is sending the “Hello, this is fiction!” memo, but there it was, that delicious (and painful) sense of my having lived in that fictional world, the reading experience was so intense: it's the liminal existence I went to books for ever since I was a little kid.

The word "liminal" comes from the Latin limen, or threshold. For Victor Turner and a bunch of anthropologists of the latter part of the 20th Century, the liminal figure exists on the threshold of two worlds, and can partake of both. Turner and his associates studied cultural liminality—including marginalization and outsiders—and that segued into studies of the liminal periods of human existence, focusing on adolescence as a liminal state.

Some regard artists, writers, and musicians as liminal, looking at social forms from the outside. If that’s true, maybe that’s one of the reasons why young adult literature is going through such an amazing popularity right now: writers and artists look at culture, especially (liminal) adolescent culture, from the outside. There are interlocking rings of liminality here . . . .

. . . but that’s another discussion. Back to Among Others.

The storyline goes something like this. Some time after the accident that claimed the life of her twin sister Morganna, Morwenna Phelps is sent to live with her father and aunts. They put her in boarding school, which she hates; reading and journal writing are her only solace. Oh yes, and magic. Armed with these three things, she slowly begins to make sense of the world as she ages toward emancipation.

The book opens with the girls doing some magic to get rid of the polluted sump of the factories. As nature reclaims the area and fairies return, the reader, trying to impose a sense of familiarity if not reality over the story, might be reminded of painful historical notes wherein polluted places are associated with beatific visions, another form of liminality.

Like A Separate Peace and To Kill a Mockingbird, Among Others straddles that threshold between young adult and adult literature. All three view the adult world from the perspective of a young protagonist, not just the kid world. Young adult novels are largely concerned with teen matters, and interactions with adults tend to be bounded by YA tropes. YA boarding school stories tend to follow rules set down more than a hundred years ago; though Mor attends a boarding school—one complete with a long history, and includes “Hons” among its students—her narrative is the antithesis of the boarding school story. The school and its world are not all-important. Mor is looking outside both figuratively and metaphorically.

Not only is Mor right in the middle of that liminal stage of adolescence, her very identity is liminal: she and her sister shared the nicknames “Mor” or “Mori”, and once she uses her sister’s name; she leaves Wales as Phelps but is enrolled under her father’s name, Markova; she’s liminal culturally, being Welsh in England, she’s liminal, or marginalized, as she can’t participate in games, that boarding school megalith, she reads science fiction, which not only socially marginalizes her, it enables her to view the world by comparing it to these fictional worlds, a uniquely liminal perspective.

Her journal is curiously liminal, reading most of the time like a journal (written in “mirror”), but everyone so often she talks to someone outside of herself: My family is huge and complex, and perfectly normal in all ways. It’s just—no. If I think about trying to explain it to somebody well-meaning who doesn’t know anything about it, I’m daunted in advance.

These are not the only liminal identities. Mor’s mother; the three aunts whom Mor can’t tell apart; her paternal grandfather, who had the most precarious liminal existence. By introducing us to these characters, the narrative engages the reader with the liminality of life.

There is the liminal nature of magic. It is difficult to define: You can never be sure where you are with magic. And you can never be sure if you’ve really done anything or if you were just playing.

From the diffuse to the details of everyday living, magic is liminal:[At boarding school] Still, on the subject of eating, we don’t have our own plates, or our own knives and forks or cups. Like most of what we use, they’re communal, they’re handed out at random. There’s no chance for anything to become imbued, to come alive through fondness. Nothing here is aware, no chair, no cup. Nobody can get fond of anything. At home I walked through a haze of belongings that knew, at least vaguely, who they belonged to. Grampar’s chair resented anyone else sitting on it as much as he did himself.

Magic, its possibility (or probability), its nature and its dangers become a powerful thread in the story. There are also the fairies, whose liminality is striking: I’ve always noticed how much more fairies are like plants than anything else. With people and animals you have one standard pattern: two arms, two legs, one head, a person. Or four legs and wool, a sheep. Plants and fairies, thought, there are signs that say what they are, but a tree might have a number of branches, growing out anywhere. There’s a kind of pattern to it, but one elm tree won’t look exactly like the next.

Mor is also aware of the liminality of history: The places of my childhood were linked by magical pathways . . . we gave them names but we knew unquestioningly that the real name for them was “dramroads.” I never turned that word over in my mouth and saw it for what it was: Tram road. Welsh mutates initial consonants. Actually, all languages do, but Welsh does it while your mouth is still open. Tram to dram, of course. Once there had been trams running on rails up and down those dramroads, trams full of iron or coal. So empty and leaf-stewn, used by nobody but children and fairies, they’d once been little railroads.

Finally there is Mor’s reading, which is largely (though not exclusively) science fiction and fantasy. That’s a liminal genre right there. Mor talks about the novels she reads, sometimes reassessing them as she gets older; she finds like-minded people who talk books.

Could younger people read it? You bet. They are most likely to not get any of the sf references, which mostly cover books that came out in the seventies or before, but when does that stop the smart reader? I remember encountering unfamiliar references at age twelve, when I first began exploring the adult shelves, and being stimulated to go searching for the hidden meaning. And in those days (banging cane) there was no Internet. But the library, I already knew, was filled with veins of treasure waiting to be explored.

When I said that Mor engages with the adult world, some readers might ask if that means references to adult matters. As always, I encourage adults with curious reader kids to read it first. Mor talks about such matters as sex (including a somewhat harrowing close call) with the exact same combo of pragmatism and curiosity that I remember my fellow young teens talking about it when we were safely out of earshot of adults, and the same way I’ve heard students talk when I could hear them outside the open window of my classroom. Or how my kids talk to each other, when their voices echo up the stairwell.

As Mor gets older, she discovers her personal boundaries blurring as much as the social boundaries. How she looks at the books she reads, how she compares their incidents and paradigms with her own experience, how she finds a group at last and what it means to be inside . . . how she deals with attraction and all its invisible assumptions and demands, and then there is how she deals with evil.
Profile Image for Florence (Lefty) MacIntosh.
167 reviews508 followers
May 19, 2014
Morwenna grows up in Wales hanging out with faeries. Nothing extraordinary about it, loved the matter of fact telling and how they're precisely as I imagined they’d be. Illusive “They’d moved in with the green things after people had abandoned them” and unfathomable. Some are pretty little things with gossamer wings, others creatures ripped from the pages of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. “Fairies tend to be either very beautiful or absolutely hideous”

She's 15 with a ton of issues - a mother who’s crackers, the death of her twin, the appearance of her father who’d dropped into her life after years without a whisper, then shipped her off to an English boarding school. A misfit who walks with a cane & talks funny, more comfortable in the company of faeries than people; immersed in the world of books, fantasy & sci-fi in particular. Friendless & lonely, she’s also clever and surprisingly grounded.

A strange, gentle story that I should have loved and did for the most part. “Away with the faeries” a Gaelic phrase my parents used to describe me. Grew up lost in my own little world so coming across Morwenna felt a bit like finding a soul mate. I’m not daft, never actually spoke to any but whereas Santa left me cold I truly believed in faeries, spent hours hunting for them in neglected places, overgrown fields, derelict buildings. Books were a refuge for me as well, a pint-sized immigrant with a Glaswegian brogue that sent my Canadian classmates into hysterics every time I opened my mouth.
cons: Why oh why didn’t she stick with the style she began in, the subtlety of magical realism. Instead you get this outta left field epic ending, unnecessary and jarring. Dropped to 3 ½ stars and rounded to 3

meanderings: All the references to ‘obscure’ sci-fi & fantasy novels whet my appetite. Roger Zelazny top of my list to try.

memorable “I should never have tried to talk to that fairy. Let someone else do something about Dutch elm disease. It isn’t my problem.”
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,962 followers
September 19, 2015
I know what I was expecting before I had read this novel. I knew it had won last year's Hugo and I've been working my way through every hugo and runner up since they started. What I hadn't expected was an unabashedly delightful review of so many great science fiction novels from the last 75 years, most of which I've also read and delighted over. I loved Mor and was always very proud of her, and who wouldn't be? As long as you are a science fiction fan, using magic as easily as breathing, thinking magic as easily as reading, you and I are her. She is our Everyman.

So, yes, I do normally hit a lot of ratings at the five star level, but is that because I research novels before I read them and only aim for the best? Or is it because I always find something brilliant in everything I read? Maybe both, but I don't care. I love books, I love books, I love books... and my kinship with Jo Walton, even though I have never spoken with her, or even read any of her other novels, is one of karass. Thank You, Jo!
Profile Image for Ferdy.
944 reviews1,107 followers
November 16, 2014

I mostly disliked this, the main character was an irritating twit, the plot consisted of a mish-mash of nothing, and then there was the weird WTF ending. I did however like the magical system/elements (up until the end), the book-talk (well, some of it), the setting/descriptions of Wales, and how fast it was to read.

-What's what: Teenager and speshul snowflake, Mori, is reunited with her estranged dad and sent to a boarding school after some unexplained Bad Thing happened to her and her now dead twin sister. Her evil mother somehow caused the Bad Thing, she wanted power or world domination or something (I'm not quite sure).
There's also fairies and magic which only Mary Sue Mori and a couple of others can see, the fairies are bloody useless and tell Mori to do random things to help nature or the world or something (again not quite sure).
Most of the book though consists of Mori banging on about how smart she is, her boring school life, and the various mostly obscure/old SFF books she's read/reading.

-I wasn't impressed with the diary format, it was poorly done and felt fake. Some of the entries were believably written but others not so much. There were too many entries which contained info-dumps and linear/perfectly remembered dialogue/conversation - they didn't read like diary entries at all.

-What was with the point of giving the life history of Mori's extended family? There were so many paragraphs and descriptions of her relatives, I thought they would be important somehow but they weren't, they were mentioned the once and then never mentioned again. Everything about them was utterly irrelevant.

-Didn't much like Mori's character, she was stuck up, self involved, and judgemental (though she claimed she wasn't). She treated the girls at her boarding school like rubbish, she looked down at them, acted crazy around them and tried to scare them. Yet she had the nerve to be upset when they weren't fawning over her and being friends with her. She didn't make any effort with the girls at her school, she pretty much hated all of them even the ones she thought of as friends. Did she ever consider that she was the problem and not them? Nope, they were all bitches and she was the innocent one. Ugh.
The more I read about Mori, the more I dislked her, she was so unsympathetic. She was a like a robot most of the time, she was more or less indifferent to her supposedly beloved twin sister's death. She had more emotions and thoughts about a guy she knew for a few weeks, it was so unrealistic. Where was her grief, anger and loss at her sister's death? They were meant to be close but it was hard to tell with the way Mori went on with her life. She didn't need to be in tears but she could have at least showed some emotion when it came to her sister.

-I was disappointed that the climactic and most significant event which happened in Mori's life occurred before the book even began. Among Others was basically a look into what comes after the end of an epic story/battle. I was waiting to find out why Mori was the way she was, how she came to be where she was, and what the Big Thing that happened to her actually was. But it was never really explained, it was referenced loads but there was no detail or real insight given. It was the most significant thing that ever happened to her, it apparently changed her, and lead her to where and who she as at the start of the novel yet the author felt no need to give proper answers or detail into that part of her life. Why leave out the most interesting aspect of the main character?!

-There were way too many references to old/classic sci-fi/fantasy books, I hadn't heard of most of them. Whenever they were brought up and used to make a point or a comparison it went over my head and left me a little lost.
I did enjoy the general bookish tidbits like the book shopping, the library parts, the MC's love for reading, but I wasn't impressed with the mentions of the more obscure SFF books, especially when they were being used to illustrate a point.
Also, I found it hard to believe how much Mori was able to read, she read dozens of hefty books in a matter of days, she couldn't possibly have had that much free time.

-I was disgusted at Mori's dad (Daniel) wanting to have sex with her and then Mori brushing of the almost rape and incest as nothing. Her reaction was bizarre. Why wasn't she disturbed or afraid? It was like it was no big deal for a dad to come on to their teenage daughter. Not only that there was a part where Mori actually considered having sex with him and regretted telling him no. Where did that come from?! Then it was all forgotten about and never mentioned again, it was unreal how it didn't affect Mori's relationship with her dad in the slightest. It was even more infuriating that by the end Daniel was made out to be a good guy, as if it was perfectly fine for him to get drunk, slip in his daughter's bed and try to have sex with her. It was shrugged off as if it was no big deal for a dad to want/try to have sex with their teenage daughter, as if it was just a silly mistake and as if dads that do that are essentially good guys. Ugh, I hated how the almost rape/incest was handled, it was glossed over and written in such a light manner.

-I thought things couldn't get any worse after the dad thing but it did, the story turned into a cheesy YA romance in the latter half, with Mary Sue Mori getting the attention of Wim - the hottest, baddest, sluttiest guy ever. Of course, all the other girls Wim dated were as Wim put it 'morons' who he didn't actually like but was happy to fuck. Naturally, Mori was different to all the other girls, ugh. Why would Mori even want Wim when he treated Ruthi and all his other ex's like rubbish? He dumped Ruthi when he though she might be pregnant. Why would Mori be cool with that when her own dad abandoned her? It made no sense. I hated Wim and Mori's relationship, I didn't sign up to read a crappy YA romance.

-Was the mum truly evil or what? Or did Mori just think of her that way because of her mental illness? What was the mum trying to actually achieve? Power? Control? Revenge? And how did Mori defeat her the first time? Did the rest of the family know about the mother or their powers? How did they even get powers in the first place? How did they learn about magic? Who taught them?

-Why did Mori jump to the random conclusion that her aunts were witches? They gave her silver earrings on Christmas and were planning on taking her to get her ears pierced and from that Mori deduced they were witches. Why would she make that random connection? It was like she just made up magical rules based on nothing but her whim.

-There was a made up word (karass) from another SFF book that was used over and over again. I didn't know what it meant, I had to search online to find out its proper meaning. It was only towards the end of the book when it'd already been used dozens of times that the author bothered to explain its meaning. What was the point of doing that after using it throughout the rest of the book with no explanation? It should have been done much earlier, the word 'karass' was after all the most important aspect to one of the arcs.

-WTF was with the ending? Magic up until then had been subtle, unseen and ambiguous. But when Mori was facing her mum there was suddenly all sorts of flashy magic that was being used. Mori was able to make fire and trees and crazy images - she had never done that before, but suddenly she was able to conjure up loud, showy magic. It didn't fit with the rest of the book, it was better when the magic/fairies were more ambiguous.

All in all, it wasn't for me. There were too many elements which frustrated me: the insufferable heroine, the awful romance with Wim, all the boring school stuff and the many reviews/mentions/references of books I'd never heard of. Among Others would probably appeal more to hardcore SFF lovers.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews864 followers
April 23, 2022
"I'll take Heinlein over a headmistress any day."

Jo Walton - Alchetron, The Free Social Encyclopedia

Jo Walton's Among Others is a very entertaining book that follows Morwenna's coming of age (through iconic science fiction and fantasy) with her diary entries from 1979-1980. While it was enjoyable, I often felt there was a lack of plot moving things forward. Morwenna's love of books and her reviews of so many classic scifi/fantasy titles wasn't always enough to keep things going (as much as I loved that aspect of the book as it prodded me to read more classic scifi--yes, that is Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers in the list of books I'm currently reading).

This seemed autobiographical and I am totally good with that. I also liked Morwenna's connection with the fairies. I would just liked to have seen more of the story line and especially for the ending (which I think worked) more context. However, the story getting us to that point was not as developed as her love for scifi. Overall, though, I really enjoyed and am glad I read Among Others! 4.25 stars

“If you love books enough, books will love you back.”
March 19, 2013
Among Others is kind of like a love letter to bibliophiles, especially those who fell in love with books as a youngster, finding solace and comfort between the pages of so many different stories. In some ways, Mor's character tapped me on the shoulder, reminding me of myself as a preteen. I went through some physical problems that made life very difficult for me. In fact, I also identified with how Mor saw her life through the lens of fiction. I think that people who spend so much time reading do tend to analyze life and books in that manner.

I found myself wanting to write down all the book titles, and even looked some up on my Kindle Fire as I read. I am not a heavy science fiction reader, but I did read tons of fantasy and some sci-fi when I was younger. This book makes me want to investigate sci-fi with a renewed interest. It seems to have much to offer Mor, and perhaps I will find the same appeal with further reading. As Mor did, I read all the ones my library had, and then some of the adult books at that point. I remember that joy, which I still have, of going to the library and bookstores and finding what new books I could read. There never seemed to be enough books. The identification factor was very strong with Mor in this regard. Also having divorced parents, and how that opens a wound inside you that doesn't ever seem to heal. Lastly, a sister I love dearly. Now, my mom wasn't an evil witch. Nor was I gifted with magic powers and the abilities to see fairies (although I would love to see fairies, to be honest. I guess I'm on the wrong side of the ocean for that).

In some ways, this book has a surreal flavor. Many times I wondered how much of Mor's magic-sensing abilities and magical frame of reference was just part of her imagination's way of dealing with some events that a young person doesn't know how to handle. But, then, I think that there is too much reality to the magic here to come to that conclusion, ultimately. At any rate, I liked how at times you couldn't tell.

This lovely book is a piece of fiction that feels so intimate and personal to me. I can only believe that the author poured her own love of books and some of her own experiences with books into this book. That kind of intense realness cannot be faked. Books are such a pleasure, one that never pales. You can find so much joy and pathos in a book that it literally is like opening a door to another world, where you can escape from your own little problems enough to gain courage to face another day. Whether that's a school full of mean girls, or parents who fight more than they show affection. Or physical problems, loss, loneliness, you name it. As an adult, that allure of books hasn't palled for me. I like to think that a grown up Mor finds just as much joy and solace in her books. And I can't fault her for it. I'm the same way.

Overall rating: 4.5/5.0 stars

Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,652 followers
July 28, 2015
This novel was a delight. I fell in love with the precocious Morwenna, a Welsh girl whose life was turned upside down after her twin sister died. Morwenna was sent to live with her father in England, and then ends up at boarding school.

Morwenna is a bright girl who loves to read, and her opinions about books were some of my favorite parts of the novel. (She loves science fiction, which I haven't read a lot of, but I enjoyed her enthusiasm.) Morwenna has trouble making friends at school, but eventually she finds her own group when she joins a sci-fi book club at the town library.

So far, this novel sounds normal, right? That's because I haven't mentioned the fairies, or magic, or the fact that Morwenna's mom is a witch who may or may not have tried to kill her and her sister.

Morwenna believes in fairies and can practice magic with their help. I loved this paragraph from the opening chapter:

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.

I listened to this on audio, which was excellent. It was performed by Katherine Kellgren, who did beautiful Welsh and English accents. This book earns my highest compliment, which is that I didn't want it to end. I wanted the story to keep going. I wanted to watch Morwenna grow up and continue to hear about her reading and to find out what happens with her and the cute boy. I generally don't read series, but I hope someday the author writes a sequel.

I think anyone who likes bookish stories and/or smart girls would appreciate this novel. I highly recommend it.

(Many thanks to GR friend Brendon for recommending this gem of a novel.)

Favorite Quote
"Interlibrary loans are a wonder of the world and a glory of civilization. Libraries really are wonderful. They're better than bookshops, even. I mean bookshops make a profit on selling you books, but libraries just sit there lending you books quietly out of the goodness of their hearts."
Profile Image for B Schrodinger.
305 reviews658 followers
June 14, 2014
Is Among Others the story of a girl who can use magic, talk to faeries and has a wicked witch for a mother? Or is it the story of a girl who has a abusive mother, a father who ran away when she was a baby and whose twin died in a tragic car accident only a year before?

When we join Morwenna's diary she is being shuffled off to her estranged father's house after an incident with her mother. She hobbles with a walking stick and can tell that everyone thinks she is a cripple. She has never met her father before, nor his three sisters who she suspects to be three magic users themselves, but not good magic. But she finds a fellow reader in her father who has an extensive SF collection that she adores.

The three aunts pay for Morwenna to attend boarding school and which she attends with minimal worry. In a way it is better than being in the same house as her aunts. At school she makes very few friends, but finds some fellow souls in the form of a SF reading group at the local library.

This is a very low key book plot-wise, it is more a coming of age book. Morwenna comes to find new love and friendship that she never expected to meet away from her home. There is no doubt that she is a very emotionally and even physically damaged person, and past events are discussed at certain parts in the book. But Jo does a brilliant job of dancing the line between truth and fiction in a way that is always on the side of the fantasy being true, but not enough for you to discount the whole diary as the warped reality of a damaged teenager. You are enchanted so much that you are willing to believe that Morwenna can converse with the faeries and that magic does occur in her life.

There is no doubt that this book is as charming as they come and is filled with love for books and the understanding of people who just don't fit in. But it is much more. The characters are distinct and three-dimensional and their motives are well known. There is also a lot of nostalgia to be had being set in 1980. Here was a book lover who may not know about a favourite author's new work until she managed to stumble across it in a book store in the city. Or who relies on the limited supplies of the local library, the school library and the second hand bookshop in town. There certainly is no more romantic book hunting in the age of ordering online from any title in print and having it on your doorstep a couple of days later, or even of ebooks.

I read the book a couple of years ago when the paperback edition first came out and I was sceptical. I'm not the type to like a book about girls who talk to faeries. But i fell in love. So this time I listened to the audiobook which was read by a Welsh lady. It definitely added a whole new spin on the story. Her voice was so distinctive.

So I'd recommend this to all book lovers, especially those of you out there who spent their youths trawling second-hand bookstores in the pre-internet age looking for that book in that series that you loved, or the out of print graphic novel that you saw once in the schoolyard.

To borrow from Morwenna "I thought it was brilliant".
Profile Image for Craig.
4,984 reviews116 followers
August 26, 2022
Among Others is a wonderful character study, a coming-of-age tale about a girl with an unusual and tragic past and unusual beliefs who is thrust into a foreign and somewhat hostile situation, the decisions she makes, and the friends and family she finds along the way. There are a lot of references to fantasy and science fiction literature and fandom, which I enjoyed very much. (I agreed with the assessment of most of the works mentioned, very intelligent assessments of Zelazny and Heinlein and Silverberg, and I have to find a copy of the Ace double that has Delany's Empire Star to see if the B side is as bad as Mori thinks.) The reader is left wondering through much of the book if there is really anything supernatural happening at all or if it's just her interpretation, but by the end we realize that the important part of the story is Mori's journey. The story is set from September of 1979 through February of 1980 at an English girls' school, but the comfortable writing style pulls you in almost immediately. It's a very thought-provoking book with a somewhat abrupt ending that can be interpreted in a number of ways, but it seemed to me to fit quite well. As she would say, Among Others turns out to be really brill.
Profile Image for Kevin Xu.
273 reviews96 followers
July 20, 2012
There are few problems I had with the book. First, as far as fantasy goes, I'm not really a big fan of the magical realism type of fantasy like this book is, I like to be transported into a new world with great world building. Second, I'm also not a big fan of geek nostalgia like this or Ready Player One. Third, I thought there could have been more to the book than basically about discovering the genre.

The book is about a fifteen year old girl who gets send to boarding school after the death of her twin by her father. It is basically seen though her diary as so goes to school from 1979-1980, and finds herself discovering all the classic science fiction/fantasy, but mostly science fiction since fantasy was still growing though the inter-library loan at her local library then discussing it at the library with the science fiction book club on Tuesdays, which is in part autobiographical.

This book is partly autobiographic of the author, and to many fantasy/science fiction lovers of the genre including me, which what makes up most of the book. The discovering/introduction to the genre when one is a teenagers, then trying to read all the genre has to offer in one sitting. I did that when I got out of high school, discovering all the new books by using the inter-library loan at my university to get all the books I found. Also this is the story of how one can be awkward during the teenage years in the process of discovering what is the real reality of life/world.

I read this book because there are many discussions about how great this book was by many in the science fiction/fantasy community, and it even won this year's Nebula, and its nominated for the Hugo. I don't see/understand the hype in the book.

After all this what one positive thing I have to say about the book is that it is a great way for people to introduced to the genre because there are many titles of books within, even though its out of date, and mostly science fiction because of the time.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,860 reviews370 followers
January 12, 2015
As a soldier in the army against ignorance (a library worker), how could I help but be charmed by this book? It is, in many ways, a testament to the ways that libraries and librarians can make a difference in people’s lives. I was astonished last year when I realized that I had now worked 30 years in the library field, but looking back it should not have been a big surprise. I clearly remember the thrill that I got on the first day that I was allowed into the “big kids’ library” in our small town school. The satisfaction of finding books that engaged and moved me—starting simply with Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series and culminating when I discovered H. Rider Haggard and J.R.R. Tolkien.

That is the second reason that Among Others charmed me—I have read science fiction all of my reading life and have appreciated its way of getting me to look at my world from new angles. I have been working my way chronologically through a long list of classic science fiction and fantasy for the last three years and am just moving into the 1980’s decade, so many of the works referenced in Among Others were fresh in my mind. In fact, I was reading Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast at the same time that I was reading about Morwenna’s discovery of it as a newly published work.

I’m sure many adolescents go through the phase of feeling like they don’t fit in and struggling to find people with whom they click—and it’s very difficult in a rural or small town situation, where numbers of children in your own age group are limited, so I could relate to Morwenna’s struggle. I was also fortunate as a farm child to have access to a university extension program—we received regular boxes of books, containing what the university librarians considered appropriate for children, including loads of fairy tales, Greek mythology, and classic books. I especially appreciated the mythology and longed to see centaurs, Pegasus, and dryads for myself, but these seemed to be delicate Mediterranean creatures that did not frequent the Canadian prairies. I didn’t encounter Mary Renault’s work back then, but I think that is an omission that I will have to correct, as Morwenna and I share similar tastes.

I love how involved we can become in these fictional works—like Morwenna, I can always count on LOTR to completely immerse me, despite the number of times I have taken that journey. I treasure the books that I can read repeatedly and happily, as well as those that deprive me of sleep because I simply can’t set them down.

Recommended for library and book lovers, science fiction readers, and those who grew up in rural surroundings (especially if you are all of the above).
Profile Image for Stephanie *Eff your feelings*.
239 reviews1,193 followers
April 27, 2013
"I care more for people in books than the people I see every day.”

uh....kind of the truth sometimes.

Morwenna Phelps is a fifteen year old who is a veracious reader, especially for anything Science Fiction, or 'SF' as she calls it. I was tempted to write down every book mentioned as this book moved along, but seriously that would have been more work than I really had the energy to do.

I'm not sure how to review this book without putting out a spoiler or two. I'm going to try to avoid it, but....

Among Others is written in the first person in the form Morwenna's diary, which begins after a horrible car crash that both Morwenna and her twin are in. Mor's leg is severely injured and her twin doesn't survive. Mor takes refuge in her books to get though it and heal.

“It doesn't matter. I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books.”

Morwenna and her sister grew up seeing fairies and doing magic (very vague magic). Mor's mother is a very powerful and evil witch, for whom she blames for her twins death. Mor runs away from her mother to stay with a father who she has never met and is sent off to boarding school.

Everything that happens in this book, or diary, is all filtered through Morwenna and her SF books. Morwenna IS her SF books, so what might actually be happening and what Mor is telling us are likely two different things altogether. .

“I don’t think I am like other people. I mean on some deep fundamental level. It’s not just being half a twin and reading a lot and seeing fairies. It’s not just being outside when they’re all inside. I used to be inside. I think there’s a way I stand aside and look backwards at things when they’re happening which isn’t normal.”

I really enjoyed Among Others, a unique read, written in a style that I I truly liked. I haven't come across anything quite like this book. It doesn't give you many answers, it doesn't tie things up nice and neat, and I liked that.

“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.”

Also posted at Shelfinflicted
Profile Image for Ryandake.
404 reviews48 followers
October 18, 2011

this books rambles along for a couple hundred pages, and then things happen on the last few. for me, by the time i got to the last few pages, i was pretty much just hoping to finish this book and be done with it so i could go on to the next book (a new collection of Thurber James.

the book is written in the form of an adolescent bibliophile's diary. that form gives it a plus: the narrator's voice, unadulterated. in this case the narrator's voice is very clear, distinctive, with an unusual and uncommonly independent point of view. the form also gives the book its downside: it rambles, it's repetitive, and it often lacks a larger, comprehensive vision, being as it is mired in the day-to-day.

the other plus and minus to this book is that it refers to scads of early SF books. it's fun when you know the book she's writing about, when you are an insider. it's not so fun when you don't know the book or haven't read it for 30 years.

to me, this book was a love poem to the joy of reading. but that fine aim doesn't rescue it from the mundanities of who the narrator is buying buns for at the boarding school, or how many trains one has to take to get from A to B.
Profile Image for Sue.
1,240 reviews533 followers
February 16, 2020
WOW! This really was something. It is the daily journal of a young teenage girl, surviving twin daughter of a Welsh witch, a girl living in 1979 Britain with the father she did not know and about to be sent off to a boarding school "among others".

This young 15 year old is both younger and older than her classmates and is above all a reader, a passionate book lover....especially works of science fiction and fantasy. These books keep her soul alive when life is too hard and come to bind her to others.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys those areas of reading. This is also a very different take on developing responsibility, individuality and maturity (if that doesn't sound too stuffy, for this is anything but a stuffy book).

I'm going to have to read it again to make note of all the books it references. Of course there are Tolkein and Asimov, Heinlein, Dick, C.S.Lewis, etc. But there's also Plato! and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

And Mori speaks such tributes to libraries and librarians!! They should be published in newspapers. I guess I'm in love with this book right now. Thank you, Jo Walton.
Profile Image for Olethros.
2,617 reviews428 followers
March 11, 2019
-Tres libros en uno, y además distintos por completo.-

Género. Narrativa fantástica.

Lo que nos cuenta. En el libro Entre extraños (publicación original: Among Others, 2010), a finales de los años setenta y tras un tiempo de vivir con el padre a quien no conocía, Morwenna Phelps descubre que la envían interna a un colegio inglés con muy buena fama. Una vez allí, la adolescente con problemas de movilidad descubre más sobre la literatura, en especial la de ciencia ficción y fantasía, que siempre le ha gustado, mientras retoma el contacto con lo mágico mediante las hadas en las áreas boscosas de su nueva residencia. Y es que Mori conoció lo mágico antes, en Gales, junto a su hermana gemela y gracias a las habilidades sobrenaturales de su trastornada madre, pero con unas consecuencias trágicas.

¿Quiere saber más de este libro, sin spoilers? Visite:

Profile Image for Kristijan.
216 reviews67 followers
July 19, 2014
Zašto Oni drugi nisu dobili pet zvezdica?
Moram priznati da sam mnogo više očekivao zato što je dobio i Huga i Nebulu. Na cirka 300 strana skoro da nema nikakvih dešavanja.
Ono što se nagoveštava kroz celu knjigu završava se u veoma osrednjem "krešendu".

Dakle, kada izuzmemo ove zamerke, šta dobijamo u tih 300 strana?
Jedan bildungsroman o odrastanju mlade Morvene koja nadu u bolje sutra nalazi u fantastičnim romanima (uključujući i naučnu i epsku fantastiku) + ljubavna priča + vilenjaci/duhovi + klasična priča o školovanju u internatu + porodični problemi.
Ono što je možda najneobičnije jeste taj Morvenin odnos prema fantastičnim romanima, tako da je roman nalik na vodič kroz fantastičnu književnost, pa na momente deluje poput Sofijinog sveta.

U globalu gledano, roman treba pročitati - pre svega zbog naglašavanja važnosti knjiga, čitanja i biblioteka, tog preseka najznačajnijih dela fantastične književnosti i intertekstualnosti sa svim tim delima.
Profile Image for Anthony.
Author 4 books1,861 followers
April 16, 2020
Just wonderful. A beautiful, delightful, keenly observed portrait of a brilliant, awkward, deeply courageous teenaged Welsh girl who knows a lot about SFF literature and even more about magic and what it means to be alive. This was my first Jo Walton book and it won’t be my last.
Profile Image for RandomAnthony.
394 reviews111 followers
October 7, 2012
I liked the hell out of Among Others in part because the novel makes me feel like I belong. This is my tribe. All that. And I don't feel like I belong often. So yay, Ms. Walton! You deserve all the awards you can stuff in your bulging suitcases. That said, I can't recommend this book if you're not one of the tribe. What tribe? The nerdy science fiction reading tribe. If your membership has lapsed you'll probably still enjoy Among Others, don't worry, but if you've not felt (sadly, proudly, or a mix of both) socially inept and found solace in science fiction at one point or another, read another book. I don't intend to sound mean, but goddammit, all you other people got to kiss in middle school and probably didn't know the local librarians by name and, in retrospect, didn't feel their pitying gaze as you read by the window three nights a week. So leave this book for us. Okay? Thanks. Fuckers. I recognize that some of you might love science fiction AND functioned well socially, but I don't know what to make of you, so I'm not speaking to you.

Among Others focuses on a teenage girl who lands, after watching her twin sister die and running away from her evil witch mother, at her distant father's house. In turn her aunts ship her off to a decidedly not-Hogwarts boarding school. She has a limp, and she's Welsh, neither of which apparently add to one's popularity in these scenarios. The novel takes the form of the girl's journals. Shut up, if you groaned I'm kicking your shins. Morwenna (the girl) is smart but not faultless, observant but not always accurate. And she reads. A lot. And she writes about books in her journal, real books, I mean, at least some of which even casual science fiction readers will recognize. I'm partial to the Zelazny she cites (esp. the Amber books) but disagree with her PK Dick dismissal. Eventually Mor (who can see fairies) either finds or creates (your call) a science fiction club and meets a boy who may or may not be worth her time. Still, even with the “mysterious boy” angle, if a librarian/bookstore clerk were to place this book next to the shopworn paranormal teen romances that person should be fired. This book belongs (there's that word again) on a different shelf. I'm not sure Among Others has a start-to-finish plot as much as a dreamy, fascinating progression. The book's strengths lie in Morwenna's voice and the assumption that the reader gets all the insider literary references. Instead of rendering science fiction palatable to the outsider, Ms. Walton gives the finger to readers who can't keep up. Or maybe, more positively phrased, she creates a conversation respectful of lifelong readers. I don't mean to sound snotty. I'm more thrilled to feel that sense of belonging. Everyone's invited. But not everyone takes up the invitation. Among Others is a blast, and the last few pages build to a moving, beautiful finish. Well done, Ms. Walton. I'm proud to know you. I hope I'm not impertinent in feeling I do. Secret handshakes all around.

Profile Image for Kris.
175 reviews1,446 followers
April 9, 2012
"If you love books enough, books will love you back."

I found this book, written in the form of a diary, to be a lovely, nostalgic read. Mori is an endearing protagonist who is struggling to find a place for herself after a tragic magical battle left her twin sister dead and her estranged from her mother. As Mori struggles to maintain her identity at a snobbish boarding school, she turns to books for comfort. Although I know that some readers found her frequent references to SF and fantasy works off-putting, I loved Walton's ability to capture all the ways that much-beloved books speak to truths more real than any held by the superficial material world. (It is, of course, possible that I am projecting here - Mori's relationship to books reminds me of mine, especially when young.)

I don't want to give any spoilers, so I will make this brief. Walton's book speaks to an adolescent's search for a deep connection with others, be they family members or true friends who ask the same questions of books and life. Mori struggles with many uncertainties about why others might like her - she worries about the ethics of using magic to find friends, as she fears the hollowness of a forced connection. Among Others captures Mori's progress to adulthood, with all the uncertainties she faces along the way. Throughout, she emerges as a courageous heroine who holds true to herself and her values, even when facing peer pressure, physical pain, emotional insecurity, and even magical battles with her mother.
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
685 reviews3,643 followers
April 25, 2015
I loved this book to pieces! Simply because it made me feel so good inside while reading it - it hit my heart spot on.
I love that this is what I would call "light" fantasy mixed with magical realism that contains fairies. I also absolutely adored the main character, Mor, and the way she feels excluded from everyone and also has a limp. Mor was amazing in so many ways: Her reading habits were phenomenal and made me want to read a lot as well. She also made me want to visit my local library a lot more than I already do. I absolutely adored the setting of the boarding school she attends even though it's portrayed as a cold, desolate and lonesome place. However, that only made her trips to the town library and the café so much better. Every time Mor had to go home to her father I wanted for her to go back to this magical town of books, coffee and intertextuality :)
This book comes with a lot of references to other books which I found interesting. Only once was I partly spoiled for a book that I might want to read later on in life, but it didn't matter because actually it only made me want to read that book even more. Mor has an amazing hunger for books and I could identify a lot with her.
I do see why some people would be disappointed in this story if they were expecting a magnificent fantasy story. I wasn't expecting anything and maybe that's why I ended up loving it so much. During the last pages I was dreading the end because I didn't want to leave Mor, and that's a sign that this is a great story worth reading!
Profile Image for John Gilbert.
866 reviews94 followers
July 11, 2022
This was an unusual and most interesting read. Having been addicted to SciFi and fantasy back in the day, I read heaps of such books, especially award winners of the Hugo or Nebula awards, of which this book won both in 2012. It was basically a love letter to the greats and not so greats of the day.

Morwenna, after a troubled childhood with her twin sister and witch mother, is now going to a boarding school near Wales where she is a lonely, book reading girl who also sees fairies. So many great writers are mentioned and books discussed in a weekly book club Morwenna finds, be it Zelazny, Asimov, Delaney, Tolkien, Heinlein and so many more. She reads compulsively and talks constantly about the merits of most, and those she doesn't like so much.

This book took me a while to digest and read, written as a diary during 1979/80, Morwenna traces her life at school, with her father and his three witch sisters, fairies she comes across and her new boyfriend Wim, who also loves SciFi. Enthralling and unusual, a slow journey with magic and books.
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