Posts Tagged contemporary fantasy

Among Others – Jo Walton

Among OthersUnreal, unreliable, but true.

Among Others
by Jo Walton.

Stars: Four and a half of five.
Cover summaryAmong Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

This is a great book, but I don’t think I can say precisely why. It seems Among Others is hard to describe, especially if you liked it. I’ve seen similar comments by other reviewers, so it’s not just my own fault in finding words elusive here.

The narrator Morwenna is a fourteen or fifteen-year-old Welsh girl, sent to English boarding school after running away from home.  Following a very brief prologue set in 1975 which establishes her happiness and magic in what came before, we move decidedly into Morwenna’s new life in 1979 at boarding school and otherwise in the care of her long-estranged father.  We only learn gradually during the entire novel why she now needs a cane to walk and what happened to her sister.

Mori was an unreliable narrator for me, even in the prologue when she casts a flower spell with her twin sister. I wondered – does this twin even exist?  Did that magic just happen?  What was the conflict with their mother?  This is not a negative point, mind you: the writing is so excellent that you trust its truth even when you don’t know what is real.  There’s a very strong sense of dislocation or even dissociation – she’s such an outsider. It’s not just her physical impairment. She does not seem to belong in the mundane world.

The title Among Others fits with Mori’s distance from everyone. I don’t mean it is as frivolous as a pun, but there is a double meaning. The others is a term often used in fantasy fiction to refer to fairies… but in this case, it is the human girl Mori who feels among others when she is in the ‘real world’ – an English boarding school or her father’s home. Fairies exist, but they are not alien to Mori despite their appearance.  I like how Mori’s acceptance of  magic is completely matter-of-fact. Mori does not think of it as a special gift or blessing. It’s just how things are. Magic, finding new science fiction books, or personality clashes with schoolmates are equally critical to her.  The result is almost like magic realism.

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Succubus Heat – Richelle Mead

The fourth entry in the Georgina Kincaid series.

Georgina’s broken up with Seth, mopes around doing not-much and so gets ‘exiled’ to Vancouver with a crappy assignment, and Jerome-who-looks-like-John-Cusack gets kidnapped.  As a result, briefly (happily) Georgie loses her succubus powers.

I am losing a little clarity on Seth’s character.  There’s a little too much of Seth-as-foil, and less of a sense of him as an independent character.

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The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove – Christopher Moore

Ha! Now this is what I mean by a Christopher Moore book.  Even Moore so than Fluke, this book is a side-splitting stand-alone slapstick. Sorry, couldn’t resist that one.

This takes place in a sleepy coastal California town, with a toking sheriff, terminator barkeep, and retired Xena-wannabe.  And, the Labrador who’s devoted to his Food Guy, within reason.

In rolls an empathic shape-changing lust-inducing aquatic pseudo-dinosaur. What exactly, and why?  Don’t ask, just enjoy. Unlike Fluke, the Deus is explained ex machina early and then we get to enjoy the mayhem.


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