Friday, September 28, 2012

Among Others by Jo Walton

As we know, I had the opportunity to go to the World Science Fiction Convention this year and the winner for best Novel was Jo Walton for Among Others.  I hadn't read anything by her (but I will read more) so I requested her book when we got back.

Among Others is a journal of Morwenna, a Welsh girl going to boarding school in England.  There is a dream like quality to the writing and the world it presents.


Mori (as she calls herself) survives the harsh school environment by reading widely, but reading, commenting and naming the titles of real science fiction books is the best part.  I read science fiction from sixth grade on, so many of the books she mentions are ones I grew up with.  How nice to hear what someone else thought of them, and that they treasured them as well.

This is not merely a journal of school days, but a chronicle of magic in the world.  Magic is subtle, always present, but difficult and dangerous to use. 

Mori sees creatures as well that she calls faeries.  They have varied appearances: "Faeries tend to be either very beautiful or absolutely hideous.  They all have eyes, and lots of them have some recognizeable sort of head.  Some of them have limbs in a roughly human way, some are more like animals, and others bear no resemblance to anything at all".

Mori speaks with these cryptic beings when she can.  Along with books, they help her make sense of the world.

She is in England after having run away from her mother.  Morwenna's twin Morganna was killed after a confrontation with their mother, who Mori paints as "the Queen of Evil".   She ends up with her father and his three sisters who dutifully take her in and immediately send her off to school.

In school she is brilliant except in math.  Her readings include philsophy and history and these seem to contribute to the very practical, very sensible way she approaches topics as varied as religion and sexuality.

Her voracious reading leads her to the public library and eventually a place in a science fiction book group there.  Once she is among others who love science fiction and fantasy and simply talking about ideas she begins to soften, I think. Drops her barriers.  Finds herself finally with people like her.

She is eventually able to confront her mother, and though she battles her alone, she now has family and friends and community to give her the strength she needs.

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