“Libraries really are wonderful. They’re better than bookshops, even. I mean bookshops make a profit on selling you books, but libraries just sit there lending you books quietly out of the goodness of their hearts.” (Among Others by Jo Walton)
Among Others is a fascinating blend of fantasy, science fiction, and a realistic coming-of-age story. If you are wondering how one author could accomplish such a thing, you’ve struck on the right question. The fantasy aspect comes into play with a subtle and believable magical system; one that is brought clearly into reality by the protagonists’ constant philosophizing about it. The science fiction and realism parts intertwine when the narrator uses science fiction books to escape her dreary boarding school experience and work through some horrific family issues. This leads to tons of references to delicious sounding 60’s and 70’s sci-fi, as well as a meditation on the power of obsessive reading.
For me, a large part of the interest in this book came in thinking about how all of these seemingly disparate themes and ideas could be fit together. I can’t say that I ever felt truly connected with the protagonist, a very mature and intellectual teen, or particularly worried about her plight. Reading it was a more intellectual experience for me, and the whole concept of the work felt experimental and as though the author was on the brink of something new and exciting for the genre. I would recommend this to fans of true speculative fiction.
Buy – Borrow – TBR – Avoid
Ending: Satisfying, beautiful, and thought-provoking
Further Reading: This book is so chalk-full of reading recommendations that I would happily stock it as a reference book behind my desk at work. Trust me, you will not lack for further reading in speculative fiction if you enjoy this book.