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An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2011-10-06 05:46
Subject: [books] Among Others by Jo Walton
Security: Public
Tags:books, klog, reviews

I am very late to this party, but yesterday I read Among Others by Jo Walton Powell's | Barnes and Noble ], in one sitting. My god, the voice in this book. If I am ever called upon to teach voice in a writing workshop, I am simply going to point here and say, “Go forth and read.”

Far brighter minds than mine have commented on Among Others, and I’m not sure I have a lot to add. I know it struck me so powerfully in part because the narrator’s age, as both a reader of SF and in terms of the chronology of the book, is coincidentally within a year of my own. At the sensawunda level, I was reading my own story. That’s an artefact of me being born in 1964 and having come of age in the later 1970s and onward, and like the protagonist, having been sent off to boarding school. I suppose if I were ten years older or younger, or with a different background, the resonances would have been different.

But whatever age you are, or were when you discovered the miracles of fantasy and science fiction, Among Others is in part a love letter to that discovery, to those books and authors and their culture in which we now find ourselves immersed in years later. It’s also a coming of age story in the more usual critical sense of that term, and does a damned fine job of telling that story with the journey through genre serving as counterpoint. Wrenching, exhilarating, tragic — apparently I can only speak in cliched adjectives of this book.

If this book isn’t at the top of the Hugo ballot next year, I’ll be astonished.

Just go read it, ok?

Originally published at jlake.com. You can comment here or there.

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scarlettina: Book love
User: scarlettina
Date: 2011-10-06 13:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Book love
I'm reading it right now and enjoying it hugely. I met Jo for the first time at WorldCon and was on a panel in which we talked about writing from firsthand experience. Obviously, this book came up. Over the course of the weekend others recommended it as well and so I acquired a copy. It's delightful, quite excellent.
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User: jess_ka
Date: 2011-10-06 15:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I didn't go to boarding school, but otherwise it was the same eerie sense of reading part of my own story for me; born in 1963 and on my own a lot from age 7 into teens, all those books and the worlds they opened figured largely for me, too. Right along with the estrangement from people who didn't get it.

Edited at 2011-10-06 03:13 pm (UTC)
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User: jimvanpelt
Date: 2011-10-07 00:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That is high praise. I'll check it out.
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just a bear whose intentions are good
User: two_star
Date: 2011-10-07 04:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I picked up a cheap copy from a dying Borders, mostly on the strength of PNH's recommendation on Making Light. And while there was a lot that I really liked about it, the fact that I came to sf/f a decade later than Mori was distancing for me, and I could see how the references could put off a reader who is unfamiliar with them.
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User: fledgist
Date: 2011-10-08 02:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think that's a reasonable judgment. Reading it struck me, in many ways, like reading parts of my own story -- certainly about discovering SF/F -- though in my case shifted eight years earlier, and in different places, starting in London and finishing in Jamaica. No boarding school (though I was sort of a day boy at one).
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