Jon's Reviews > Among Others

Among Others by Jo Walton
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really liked it

Among Others is the fourth of the 2011 Nebula nominees that I've read. Unfortunately, it falls into the category into which I placed "The City & The City" a couple of years ago -- while it's really well written, it's not clear it's fantasy or science fiction.

With the tragic confrontation involving the narrator (Mori), her mother and her identical twin sister taking place near the start of the narrative (but not re-told directly on the page), I expected to see some sort of Harry Potter-like book. In other words, something magical happened that set the stage for a book full of magic. But that's not what happened.

Instead, you get a coming-of-age tale that's more about science fiction than it is science fiction. In particular, a lot is said about the Mori's opinions of various sf from the 1970s and earlier, but for much of the book there's a nagging feeling that the Mori is imagining the fantasy elements.

This may be a weird comparison, but I kept thinking of a book I read when I was around Mori's age -- Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars, by Daniel Pinkwater. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but as I recall, Alan seems in the first part of the book like this weird new kid in town who tells everybody he's from Mars. For all you know, you're reading something with as much sf/fantasy content as a Judy Blume novel (not that there's anything wrong with that).

But then Daniel Pinkwater commits to the weirdness. Of course, Alan Mendelsohn is really from Mars, and you have the mind control and planar travel and aliens and whatnot. It may not be a great book, but it's definitely sf.

Among Others by contrast is really well done, but I'm afraid if it wins the Nebula or the Hugo it will only be because the tale of a geeky kid who loves reading science fiction will really speak to the voters. It's a very enjoyable book, but voting it the best sf/fantasy novel of the year would be like voting a restaurant the best Japanese restaurant just because they serve miso soup on Mondays.

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Reading Progress

April 16, 2012 – Started Reading
April 16, 2012 – Shelved
April 16, 2012 –
page 13
April 18, 2012 –
page 194
April 19, 2012 – Finished Reading

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message 1: by Jon (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jon It won the Nebula. :-(

To be clear, I enjoyed the book, but I didn't think it was sf enough to deserve to win.

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