I recently read Among Others by Jo Walton which won the 2011 Nebula Award and 2012 Hugo award for best novel. This is the first book of hers that I have read. First off I can certainly see why this book was so appealing to SF fans and the award committees.
The novel tells the story of a young Welsh girl Morwenna’s which includes fantasy elements. Her twin sister was killed after a spell casting battle with their mother. Afterwards she flees to live with her Father that had abandoned them as a child. She is then sent off to a boarding school where she tries to fit in.
So on one level you have a basic fantasy story that is combined with a coming-of-age tale as Mori learns to cope with what happened and to socially adapt at the school along with interacting with what she sees as Faeries. This is all told as through a journal in the early 1980’s. It is quite an interesting blend of a novel, but for the SF and Fantasy fan there is also plenty of discussions regarding SF & Fantasy authors and their books. Mori is a veracious reader and she discusses and critiques these novels both in her journals and in her discussions with a book group. Many SF & Fantasy fans will easily be able to read themselves into this character and it was a bit of a nostalgic trip for me.
With Mori seeking to protect herself from her mother there is also an interesting discussion regarding the ethics of magic that go beyond the simple division white/black magic. The topic of causality and what effect a spell has on reality also adds some interesting discussions. The Faeries are not of the Tinkerbell variety and are rather mysterious and dangerous.
While the novel covers the ethics of magic, Mori’s ethical concerns are much more secular when it comes to sexual morality. For example her future plans for sexual activity see contraception as a given. This though is a typical divide in SF & Fantasy where a character might rise about many ethical difficulties, but this area is seldom one of them.
I listened to the audiobook version which was quite excellent and told via a Welsh accent. I still haven’t decided if I really liked this book more for the story or for all the SF & Fantasy discussions. Though maybe they shouldn’t be separated since they were part of a coherent whole that made a very enjoyable read.