Like many men, I usually need a fair amount of action in a story to get me hooked and to really enjoy it. That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate character development and ideas, I do. But, that’s why I’ve had a hard time trying to describe this Hugo & Nebula Award winning novel and explain what I really liked about it. The story is that of Morwenna (Mori) Phelps, a 15-year-old girl who ran away from her more-than-half-mad mother in Wales and is now attending boarding school in England thanks to her estranged father’s family. There’s also magic, faeries, libraries, and books – oh so many wonderful science fiction & fantasy books!
The novel unfolds in diary form from Mori’s perspective and is compellingly readable as we slowly learn more about Mori’s past, what happened to her mother and sister, and why she’s now on her own at a boarding school in a foreign country. Jo Walton puts a unique spin on the idea of a magical boarding school in that the school Mori attends is very ordinary, but Mori herself knows just a bit of magic. She is able to dabble enough to bring herself to the attention of the faeries from her dark and mysterious past. Meanwhile, she also slowly gets to know her father, discovers a shared love of reading sci-fi & fantasy, and even joins an SF book club at the local public library in town. In telling this wonderful story, Walton has also managed to convey her love for golden age 20th century speculative fiction and the authors of the genre.
If you liked other books that are essentially love letters to books and geek culture (see Ready Player One, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, and Redshirts), you’ll want to add Among Others to your “”to read”” list. And if you enjoy reading sci-fi and fantasy books, then you’ll want to be sure to have pen & paper handy to jot down the dozens of titles and authors that Mori, her father, and her Sci-Fi book club share with each other – and with us, the lucky readers.