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Merle

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Reblogged from Merle:
Among Others - Jo Walton

Among Others is a fun, interesting book, and I sped through it in one day. Looking back though, several flaws detract from what might otherwise have been excellent.

Through her journal entries (which are really just regular first-person narration), this book relates the story of Mori, a Welsh teenager and lover of science fiction who is sent to an upper-class English boarding school after fleeing her abusive mother. Mori doesn't fit in with the other girls and spends the bulk of her time reading SF novels. She's a sympathetic and relatable character, particularly if you were an odd kid who read a lot; I loved the way she talked about the inter-house competitions, for instance, which everyone else took very seriously and she couldn't care less about. The book is well-written and does a great job of keeping questions in the reader's mind at all times, particularly as Mori takes her time in telling us about her past. And the discussions of class tensions in 1970's England, as well as the trouble readers had to take to find books by their favorite authors before the Internet (we're spoiled nowadays!) were interesting.

But there are several problems. Most annoying (and ironic since Mori criticizes other books for this) is that the book is just way too pat. Mori forms close bonds almost instantaneously with every other reader she meets (and there are a lot of them, as she joins a book club halfway through); the first guy to catch her eye soon becomes her boyfriend; the last couple pages are sickeningly sweet. And then there are all the unanswered questions. One plotline deals with Mori's aunts trying to force her to get her ears pierced, which she believes will stop her from doing magic--but she never discovers their true motivation. We never find out what's really behind the aunts' relationship with Mori's father, nor why their father committed suicide. Etc. We're briefly given a lot of fascinating information about Mori's extended family, but it's never followed up on, sometimes never referred to again. I'm not sure why the author dangled so many tantalizing hooks if they were irrelevant to the story at hand.

So the book is worth a read, probably especially if you've read much 1970's science fiction (I haven't, and I don't feel that this detracted from my understanding of the book, but someone who's read most of the books Mori discusses would probably enjoy those parts more). Still, it isn't quite what it could have been. If it had been longer, enough to make Mori work harder to earn her happy ending and to flesh out more of the characters and their stories, I suspect it would have been excellent.