Wednesday, September 19, 2018

RIP XIII #4: Among Others

Among Others, by Jo Walton

Morwenna is heading off to a fairly posh boarding school.  It's 1979, and boarding school is the last place she wants to be....except for with her mother, which would be much worse.  Mor is Welsh (thus kind of foreign), brainy and bookish, and has to walk with a cane since her accident.  The school is largely focused on games and social standing, so Mor has few friends.  She misses her twin sister (who died), Wales, and the fairies they knew for years.  Mor is the survivor of the magical battle she and her sister fought, and this is the aftermath, the part after the story is ended.  But since Mor is still alive, she needs to find purpose and her place in things -- and maybe the battle isn't quite as over as she thinks.

I liked this novel a lot; it's good stuff, well-written and gripping.  Mor is very lonely, and finds solace in reading SF, and a good chunk of the book is a paean to old-school science fiction writers.  I would say, in fact, that it gets to be quite a bit too much, but it did remind me that I would like to read some James Tiptree, Jr.*  She also performs some magic, and then spends a lot of time trying to figure out the repercussions of what she's done, which I liked very much.  The fairies and magic elements in the story are very well-done.

So instead of traveling from a hum-drum life to a magical boarding school, Mor spends the whole story in a hum-drum boarding school, away from her magic-laden former life.  A fun turn-around.  Highly recommended, but only if you enjoy reading a surprising amount about Robert Silverberg and others.



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*Of which none is to be found in my local library.  But my brother did inform me of the existence of BloodHag, a death metal band that writes songs almost exclusively about SF/F authors and the joys of libraries.  I don't care for death metal but I quite liked the clip of "James Tiptree, Jr." I saw in a short film about them, "The Faster You Go Deaf...".  Share and enjoy!



7 comments:

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

I've had very up and down experiences with Jo Walton, but Among Others is a solid favorite. I get so many book recs from it! And I ardently cosign the James Tiptree Jr recommendation. I read Brightness Falls from the Air and liked it a lot -- if you ever get a chance!

Jean said...

Thanks! Maybe Kindle or ILL can be my friend. I'm not sure if I want to read more Jo Walton; I've now read five titles and they were all pretty good, but do I want to tackle Thessaly? Hm.

ed.pendragon said...

I thought this good enough, and haunting enough, to hang onto for a second read. It helps that, though I don't know the exact locality that's Morwenna home turf, I know the area and a bit of its history enough to say that it definitely captures its sense of both abandonment and other worldliness.

Jean said...

I really liked some of the landscapes in the story. Would love to visit there!

ed.pendragon said...

South Wales is an interesting area, especially with the valley regarded as a key matrix of the Industrial Revolution what with all the coal and iron produced there.

These days, thanks to Margaret Thatcher, there's a population feeling purposeless and redundant as all the traditional sectors guaranteeing mass employment have largely disappeared. The UK's former Rust Belt perhaps.

There has been some improvement in recent years, ironically as a result of EU reinvestment, which will (also ironically) disappear if and when Brexit happens.

ed.pendragon said...

"Valleys", not singular! 🙂

Jean said...

What are the former industries of South Wales besides coal-mining, and presumably some things that go with coal-mining? Do people really want to resurrect coal-mining, or is it something else? I've always been pretty curious about this, actually, but I'm not sure where to learn about it.