Among Others by Jo Walton Our heroine – who doesn’t share her name with us until well into the book – is a Welsh teen who ran away from her mother and is now (now being 1979) being sent to English boarding school. Of course she doesn’t fit in; her leg was damaged in the accident that killed her twin sister, and she can’t participate in the all-important school sports. Although the school is out in the country, it’s less wild than the outskirts of town in Wales, and that means many fewer fairies, and the ones she can find won’t talk to her. But it’s after the great battle, she says, after the Scouring of the Shire. You don’t expect everyone to survive or for things to go smoothly. The world is still going on, and that means you succeeded. Mori spends her time reading, mostly lots and lots of science fiction. Eventually she joins a science fiction book club, her only real social outlet. Oh, how very close to her I have been! It’s a somewhat sneaky book – most of what happens in the present is pretty mundane, so that I thought at first that the story was going to be the slow and tiny revelations about the Big Battle of the past. Mori suffers through school, tries to figure out the social rules, tries to understand the father she met for the first time when she ran away from her mother. She visits her family in Wales – the people she loves who raised her in the face of her mother’s neglect and craziness. She thinks about love and sexuality, and she reads and thinks about what she reads, often comparing the magic in books to the magic that she has experienced herself. And then suddenly, she is in actual present danger and must rely on the knowledge she has gained from her reading. It was a plot twist that I was not expecting at all. I am left feeling that I ought to go back and re-read it. I was also torn between all the fabulous books that she read that I have also loved, many that I have heard of but not read (mostly sci-fi classics that were missing from my parents’ bookshelf), as well as a few authors that I have never heard of. I should read more science fiction! But I’m already behind on all the areas that I try to read already – aggh! I will also note that the cover of this book, while lovely, seemed to have very little to do with the contents and moreover, made it look like mainstream women’s fiction instead of fantasy that would be enjoyed by either gender. This fantasy is a love poem to science fiction and the power of reading, as well as a strong coming-of-age story featuring a most sympathetic protagonist.
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