Among Others

by Jo Walton
Reviewed date: 2018 Sep 17
Rating: 2
302 pages
cover art

A bookish young girl sent off to boarding school. Morwenna spends all her time reading science fiction, writing letters about science fiction, and joins a science fiction book club to talk about SF to other fans. She name-drops everybody's favorite authors and books. She meets a boy, Wim, who tells her about attending the 1979 Worldcon in Brighton. Mor is beside herself: "I could hardly believe I was sitting in the same room as someone who had talked to Robert Silverberg."

She also goes on interminably about her family, discussing every relative and all their backstories. It's dull dull dull.

Along the way she drops hints at a bigger story. She had a twin sister, who is now dead. She ran away from her mother, who is an evil witch. She saved the world, and she might have to do it again. She can talk to fairies. She can do some magic. She walks with a cane and lives in constant pain because her leg was injured in an accident.

She's altogether too progressive and liberal for a young girl in 1979, even if she does read a lot of science fiction. And she's far too blase and mature about sex. In fact, she's far too mature for everything; it's not quite believable. But at that, it's not worse than the boy protagonists that are everywhere in early science fiction. Farmer in the Sky, anyone?

I kept waiting for something to happen, something big to unfold. It didn't. Well, she had another confrontation with her mother the witch, but it was perfunctory and anti-climactic. The whole book really is about Morwenna reading science fiction books and being a fan of science fiction. I read science fiction books and am a fan of science fiction. I don't need to read about somebody else doing it. I can do it myself. Cut out the middle man.

I finished the book because, despite it being blatant fan service, I did sort of enjoy all the name-dropping of science fiction books and authors. It's no wonder the book won a Hugo.

But I found it a bit too much, altogether. Unsatisfactory in the end.

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