Among Others

Jo Walton
Among Others Cover

Among Others


Had Among Others been written by a writer without Jo Walton's credentials for genre fiction it probably would have garnered more consideration from literary award committees, especially in the young adult category. Walton's coming of age story cleaned up among the awards charted by Worlds Without End because it brings an immense amount of heart to the table. Typically, SF novels skimp on the emotional side of storytelling to serve ideas, but Among Others stands out for the rich development of its main character, Morwenna Phelps.

Among Others falls loosely under the fantasy heading, but could easily be classified as magical realism. In fact, the main character presents herself as an unreliable narrator. This causes the reader to question whether there is any fantasy element to the novel at all. Magic is described as completely deniable because of its coincidental nature. Fairies are everywhere in plain sight, but can easily be mistaken for mundane objects such as tree stumps. A quote from early in the book sets the tone, “I'm telling that part first because its compact and concise and it makes sense, and a lot of the rest of this isn't that simple. Think of this as a memoir. Think of it as one of those memoirs that's later discredited to everyone's horror because the writer lied and is revealed to be a different colour, gender, class and creed from the way they made everyone think. I have the opposite problem. I have to keep fighting to stop making myself sound more normal. Fiction's nice. Fiction lets you select and simplify. This isn't a nice story, and this isn't an easy story. But it is a story about fairies, so feel free to think of it as a fairie story. It's not like you would believe it anyway.”

Among Others is set in Wales in 1979. It uses the convention of diary entries to tell the story of a fifteen year old girl who is coping with the death of her twin sister. Among Others is a character study that has little world building or plot when compared to a typical Fantasy/ Science Fiction novel. There is a loose McGuffin in which she engages in battle with her mother, who is a witch. Most of the book details her adjustment to living in a boarding school after the accident that has killed her sister and left her disabled and her attempt to deal with the loneliness and isolation that follows. What follows is a very human story in which she develops friendships and begins a relationship with her estranged father's family.

Much to the delight of SF/F readers, Morwenna seeks refuge in reading Science Fiction/Fantasy of the period. This has the effect of a really great soundtrack. Throughout the book the reader is constantly tempted to order some of these through their local library's inter-library loan system. Among Others stands out among recent SF/F and deserves to be read. Go down to your local library and check it out.