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Stella Matutina
books and stories and musings, oh my!
41. Among Others by Jo Walton 
18th-Mar-2011 10:41 am
Author: Jo Walton
Publisher: Tor
Publication Date: January 2011
Pages: 302
Status: library

LibraryThing Info

AMONG OTHERS is a “what happens after” book. The protagonist, Mori, saves the world from her mother’s dark magic. The struggle kills her twin sister, Mor, and leaves Mori herself with a crippled leg. Since she can no longer live with her mother, social services sends her to her long-absent father, who in turn sends her to a boarding school where she feels out of place.

I loved this book for many reasons, but Mori’s science fiction addiction has gotta be front and centre. She’s a voracious reader who spends a lot of time thinking about books and stories and the ways they do or do not correspond to real life. Y’all know I’m a total sucker for fictional book-love, so Mori’s love of the written word hit all my buttons. Science fiction has often been described as a conversation, and Mori enters that conversation full-throttle. Once she finds her book club (or, as she calls it, her karass--a term I had to look up, as I am not so SF-literate as Mori) and has folks with whom she can trade recommendations and discuss all the things she’s read, the story becomes unputdownable. I couldn’t get enough of her bookish thoughts.

I found Mori’s enthusiasm contagious. Her love of what is, to me, classic sci fi (the book takes place in 1979 and 1980, and Mori reads both vintage and contemporary novels) made me want to read some in the worst possible way. It made me want to know as much about SF as Mori does. I want to be able to enter an intelligent conversation on these matters, just as she does with her book club. I’m hella jealous of her reading speed, too. She gets through a couple of books a day, most days, so AMONG OTHERS is absolutely peppered with titles and authors’ names. Jo Walton recently posted a bibliography on her LiveJournal, and I... have not read very many of them, beyond the obvious SF starting points, like McCaffrey and Tolkien and Le Guin. Sigh.

This reminded me of how modern-centric my reading is. I need to branch out and read some of the books people have been reading for decades, instead of focusing on stuff that’s appeared in the last fifteen years or so. Trouble is, I have this stupid mental block--essentially, I can’t kick the assumption that classic SF is all ideas-over-characters, which y’all know is not much my scene (or at least a scene I have to be in the perfect mood for). Hmm. I guess I’ve just gotta dive on in and see where the current takes me. I’m sure I’ll find tons of charactery goodness once I actually try to find it.

But I've drifted off track. I didn’t love AMONG OTHERS only because it got me thinking about books and reading, or because it once again convinced me I must read all the books. I also love the way Walton handles magic, and familial issues, and grief.

The magic is very much concerned with the connections between people and/or things, and the ways one can manipulate those connections to achieve a desired result. It’s not linear; if one does magic today, it can ripple back through time until it's rearranged things in accordance with the working. It’s an intimate, slightly terrifying approach that I found just fascinating. Mori is forever aware of how dangerous it can be; how morally suspect it is to change the past (if the magic in question does work backwards instead of forwards) and how difficult it can be to know whether you’ve done the right thing. Time and again, she worries over the magic she’s done, much of which seems small but may have been as dire as anything her mother has ever tried.

She does not, however, regret anything she had to do to halt her mother's magic and keep her from enslaving the world--and that includes the actions that led to Mor’s death and her own crippling injury. She’s quite matter-of-fact about this. It needed to be done, so they did it. End of story.

Except it isn’t, really, because she has to live with the consequences. She’s in terrible pain, and she’s gone from a We to an I. Much of her emotional journey ties in with this transition. I don’t want to spoil it for you by breaking it down, but I was pleased. It felt real and plausible and true.

It’s a lovely book, y’all--quiet, affecting and chock full of book-love. I think you should read it.

4 stars – loved it

Strange Asides:

I'm with everyone else: I totally loved the bit where Mori mistook I CAPTURE THE CASTLE for an historical siege story. It made me want to reread the book in the worst possible way. I've got a wonderful, crumbling old copy at home, and I believe I shall tackle it soon after we're reunited.

Also, Mori is an interlibrary loans addict, so I thought it was kind of neat that I got this one from Manukau Libraries instead of Auckland City Libraries. I mean, it's sort of the same thing now, since they amalgamated all the localish library systems back in November, but still. Manukau Libraries sends me rather a lot of books, as does North Shore Libraries. They seem to buy many more of the books I'm interested in than does Auckland City Libraries, which sometimes has odd (to me) gaps in its collection.

On a semi-related note, I also think it's neat that the libraries here are always refered to in the plural. Back in my part of Canada, it's just "the library," even though there're a couple dozen branches. Here in New Zealand, even one library is "libraries," because the collection is spread out over several separate buildings in different parts of the city.

Age Breakdown:

Mori’s younger than me, as are almost all her friends and acquaintances. I think even her school librarian may be younger than me. Sigh. I really ought to read more books about middle aged folks so’s I can feel all young and sprightly.

Other Reviews:

Bookworm Blues
Entomology of a Bookworm
Here, There & Everywhere, 2nd Edition
Jenny's Books
Necromancy Never Pays
Stainless Steel Droppings
things mean a lot

Did I miss yours? Please let me know so I can link to it!

Back In the Day:

  • One Year Ago: The Magicians and Mrs Quent by Galen Beckett

  • Two Years Ago: Interlude. I talk about series on the go. It's kind of depressing how few I've actually finished. I mean, why oh why have I not completed Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn Trilogy yet? Or read GORMENGHAST? What is wrong with me???

Mythology & Folklore
17th-Mar-2011 11:05 pm (UTC)
I have to read this book! I thought i had it my TBR list, and didn't, so it's added now. I have to read this! I loved Tooth and Claw so much, and I know I'll like this one by her. I have to find it! (no, no obsession with reading here...) Great review, Memory, you made me wish I had the book already!! lol
24th-Mar-2011 11:25 pm (UTC)
I'm sure you'll love it, Susan!
17th-Mar-2011 11:05 pm (UTC)
that was me above who left that comment - Susan - You Can Never Have enough Books
17th-Mar-2011 11:10 pm (UTC)
I love her writing, so I should read this one! I didn't even know it existed--thanks for the review.
24th-Mar-2011 11:27 pm (UTC)
I only learned of it a couple of months ago myself. Books tend to sneak up on us, don't they?
18th-Mar-2011 03:19 am (UTC)
Nymeth already inspired me to put this one on my to-be-read list...now I think I want to move it higher up!
24th-Mar-2011 11:41 pm (UTC)
It's a lovely read! I'm already wondering if there's anyone I can give it to for Christmas.
18th-Mar-2011 12:05 pm (UTC)
You got it through interlibrary loan! That makes me happy.
24th-Mar-2011 11:40 pm (UTC)
I didn't actually notice until I'd finished it and was drafting my review. I thought it was a nice little piece of synchronicity. :)
18th-Mar-2011 10:37 pm (UTC) - Jack Vance
Have you ever read Jack Vance? He writes SF but also Fantasy. Some call his writing Science Fantasy. I was thinking about the Lyonesse trilogy. If you haven't read it, you might enjoy. Especially his character Madouc. He blends in various mythologies which I always like. Also, Last Castle is one of his classics that I haven't read yet and my husband keeps bugging me to get around to!
24th-Mar-2011 11:42 pm (UTC) - Re: Jack Vance
I've been meaning to read Jack Vance for several years now, but I haven't managed it yet. I'm far too scattered with my reading. Sigh.
19th-Mar-2011 02:24 am (UTC)
What did you think of Wim? Ana and I both had the same response to Wim, but Ana wasn't sure what Jo Walton's intentions for the character were. Thoughts? (I've been vague on purpose because I don't want to prejudice your reply.)

I knew you would love this! When I was reading it I kept thinking of how much you'd like it. Thanks for the link to the bibliography. It is a bit overwhelming to see them all laid out like that. I have hereby adjudged that I will let you vet all of Mori's sci-fi reading books, and then I will only read the ones that you like. kthxbye!
24th-Mar-2011 11:44 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure Wim was as bad as everyone in the town thought, but I don't know if he was entirely blameless, either. I was impressed with how he believed Mori, though I'm not sure if it began as genuine belief or more of a "hey, cute girl, maybe I can get somewhere if I pretend I'm into this" thing. Thinking of it now, I wish I still had the book on hand so I could flip back through and examine some textual evidence.
19th-Mar-2011 01:02 pm (UTC)
It was very hard for me to decide just how much I liked this one--I so very much lovd all the bookishness that I'm unable to decide if I would have liked the stor without the books!
24th-Mar-2011 11:45 pm (UTC)
Oh, bookishness. It does tend to push readers' buttons!
20th-Mar-2011 11:09 am (UTC)
I have been meaning to read this author for a while now. I have Tooth and Claw out of the library to read soon.
24th-Mar-2011 11:46 pm (UTC)
I loved TOOTH AND CLAW, too. It's quite different from this one, but no less enjoyable. There are dragons! With complicated familial entanglements! And social strictures!
20th-Mar-2011 11:30 pm (UTC)
I didn't know about karass either, but I so love the concept! And I love your point about magic and connections.
24th-Mar-2011 11:47 pm (UTC)
Confession: the karass thing sort of made me want to read some Vonnegut just so I could be all smug about how I already knew the term. I am an odd girl.
22nd-Mar-2011 10:24 pm (UTC) - character-driven SF of the 70s
There's Frank Herbert's Dune, of course. I'm partial to plot-driven SF of that period, which is pretty much anything by Heinlein, Poul Anderson, and Roger Zelazny. Those are three I really loved when I was Mori's age in the 70s. There's also Robert Silverberg. And the Thomas Covenant books (Donaldson), about which I disagree with Mori's judging-a-book-by-its-description tactics.

Can't resist saying again how much I loved Jo Walton's book.

24th-Mar-2011 11:47 pm (UTC) - Re: character-driven SF of the 70s
DUNE is my every-ten-years book. I read it at fourteen, then at twenty-four. I plan to read it again when I'm thirty-four.
24th-Mar-2011 04:14 pm (UTC)
Gah, between you and Jenny and Nymeth and everyone, I need to read this book, and I need to read it now. Color me convinced.

Also, you really ought to finish the Mistborn trilogy, as there's a new Mistborn book coming out in November. :)
24th-Mar-2011 11:49 pm (UTC)
I know! I'm so behind! The weird thing is, I was so eager to see how everything came together... but I know I have to reread the first two books before I can read the third, and I can never seem to find a nice stretch where I feel comfortable rereading two chunksters. It's a pickle. I could've done it hear in NZ, no problem, but the library only has hardcover copies. I put up with them once, but I must have my paperbacks for my reread. I must.
25th-Mar-2011 12:15 am (UTC)
I can sympathize... I'm facing a couple of chunkster re-reads on the horizon myself. (Name of the Wind and A Game of Thrones, to be specific.)
27th-Mar-2011 11:09 pm (UTC)
I haven't yet read GRRM precisely because I know it'll mean a whole spate of chunkster rereads every time a new book comes out. I did that for a few of the later WoT books, but I don't think I can face it again. I figure I'd best wait until the whole thing is out and in paperback!
25th-Mar-2011 06:06 am (UTC)
I can get really "modern-centric" sometimes - usually because when I go the bookstores, I can get easily drawn into buying one or two. But, then , when I got to the library, I tend to find more old gems tucked in the shelves.

27th-Mar-2011 11:14 pm (UTC)
I sometimes find really awesome older books at used book sales, for dirt cheap. I fear I tend to gloss over them at regular old used bookstores, though, since the spines aren't nearly as attractive as modern publications. Sad, but true.
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