Among Others by Jo Walton
I listened to this as an audiobook, and enjoyed it so much that I found myself almost hoping that traffic would be bad so that I could listen just a litle longer. I think part of it is the narrator, who did a brilliant job with all the different accents and voices. Her men do not sound like cartoon characters.
I’ve enjoyed Jo Walton’s other books, FARTHING, HA’PENNY, and TOOTH AND CLAW very much. This one is much different. It’s a coming-of-age book in a way, because Mori is a fourteen-fifteen year old on the cusp of nascent adulthood. Much of it takes place in a boarding school, so it’s kind of a boarding school book (for those who find the idea of boarding school unbelievably exotic) and it had faeries and magic, so it’s also a fantasy.
The thing I loved the most about this epistolary novel is that the faeries and magic were so commonplace. Like “Today I went to the bookstore and bought a new Zelazny, and my leg was hurting, and I saw a faerie by the pond but it didn’t say anything.” (I made that up. I don’t have the book with me to quote). Mori is a girl for whom books are the best and most important thing in life. (For this reason, I have to wonder how autobiographical this novel is?)
The most interesting thing about the novel was the choice of time period. It takes place AFTER Mori and her twin sister (also Mori) defeated their mother and saved the world. Mori has an injured leg, and her sister has died. Mori has escaped their mother, gone to a group home, and finally tracked down her father, imploring him to care for her since her grandparents no longer can do so. Every other YA fantasy I’ve read would have started it with what it was like as they grew up with a mad witch mother, and about her quest for power, and about what they did to stop her. This one deals with the whole situation in allusions and fragments of memory. Instead of being less interesting, it’s MORE interesting.
The novel takes place in 1979-1980, and since Mori is a rabid SF fan, she references science fiction passionately and consumingly. Much of her time and effort is spent reading books, finding books to read, or discussing books with people in her life. I’ve read some of the same books as Mori, so this wasn’t completely lost on me, but I haven’t read nearly that many books, and the ones I’ve read I’ve mostly forgotten, so this aspect of the book was a little like the regrettable but ubiquitous panel at a con where the older SF fans lament all the great titles that no one has even heard of anymore.
I didn’t think I would like this book nearly as much as I did. Something about it just hit me perfectly. I felt as though I knew Mori, liked her very much, and wanted to be her friend. The plot wasn’t as you’d expect from a novel, more like something that just happened. The climax scene comes unexpectedly and is resolved very quickly and with less credulity than the rest of it, but that fit with the rest of the pacing. It felt like a novel in which all the pieces fit together just right.
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