I loved Among Others. I did not want it to end. I loved it so much I am considering starting a new Science Fiction/Fantasy book discussion group at the Galesburg Public Library. If you are a teen or an adult who might be interested in participating in such a group, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The book opens in 1975. Two young twins, Morganna and Morwenna, attempt a bit of fairy magic to close down a chemical plant in their home in Wales. When nothing happens, they think they’ve failed; however, the next day they read in the paper that the plant is closing. If you believe the narrator in Among Others, fairies are real, magic is real, and both are just a part of our world. Mori, the narrator, is very matter-of-fact about that.
Four years later, in 1979, Mori has just been sent to boarding school by the father she hasn’t seen since she was a baby. The previous year, she and her twin fought a sensational battle with their mother, a witch, to keep her from controlling the fairies and taking over the world. As a result of the battle, Mori is crippled and her twin is dead. After running away to escape her mother, Mori was sent to live with her father and his three sisters (yes, his three sisters, which as anyone who loves fantasy knows is a significant number).
In many fantasy novels, the battle with the mother would be the climax. Not in this book. It’s a starting point, something that sets up the rest of the plot, but not the focus. The book is a refreshing, down-to-earth, original story about how Mori picks up the pieces and finds a place for herself after her world is torn apart. Mori is a very interesting character with a lot of depth who makes astute observations about her fellow students at school and what’s left of her family. I liked her, and I enjoyed watching her relationship with her father and his father change and grow.
What keeps Mori sane is her love of reading, especially science fiction and fantasy. She forms cordial relationships with her school librarian and the librarian at the town library. (An aside: how could any librarian not think kindly toward a book that opens with the dedication “This is for all the libraries in the world, and the librarians who sit there day after day lending books to people.”) Mori understands the power of great books and stories to heal and change. Mori has nothing in common with her fellow students, and her life is dramatically changed when the town librarian asks her to join a Science Fiction book club. Finally she finds a place she fits, where she can talk with people she likes and who like her. There are many references to great sci fi throughout Among Others, not only through the book club scenes but in Mori’s day-to-day life. I feel like I need to reread the book, make a list of all the titles I have not read, and start reading them.
Although Among Others is considered adult fiction, it could certainly be read and enjoyed by teens as well. There is not actually much magic in it, if someone who does not usually read fantasy wants to give it a try, but its true audience is those like Mori who love science fiction and fantasy. I have one quibble with a “surprise” plot point, but aside from that I have no real criticisms.
Are you a fan of science fiction and fantasy? If you are, I recommend you get your hands on a copy of Among Others by Jo Walton.