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Among Others, by Jo Walton - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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Among Others, by Jo Walton [Aug. 26th, 2010|05:20 pm]
Marissa Lingen
Advance review copy provided by the author, who is papersky.

I got to the line midway through the book, "I've never met anyone called Harriet in real life. I had a brief fantasy about her being Harriet Vane, because she'd be about the right age for that, except that Harriet Vane would be addressed as Lady Peter, and anyway she's fictional. I can tell the difference, really I can." And I stuck my thumb in the book and laughed so hard that I woke the guy across the aisle from me in the airplane and made the fellow beyond him stare. Probably if it wasn't for me the staring one would have been able to find all the words in his twenty-or-so-word word-search in the course of the three-hour plane ride, but I had to interrupt him with my laughing at Jo writing that in this book of all books, where a great many readers will feel absolutely sure that they know exactly which bits are fictional and which are autobiographical, and a great many readers will be wrong in their certainty (as for me, I aim for doubt as a permanent condition; it does me good here as in so many places). And I was only briefly distracted thinking of what kind of tragedies would befall a person that they could intently search for only twenty words over the course of three hours and, oh Lord help us, not find them, when my grandpa would have polished off the word-search, the jumble, the crossword, the sudoku, several chapters of the book he was using the puzzle page as a bookmark in, and had a good nap and a good think and drunk some coffee and leaned across the aisle to tell me a very terrible joke besides. But the problem is I don't know which very terrible joke, that's only one of the many ways having a Grandpa-shaped hole is not nearly so good as having a Grandpa.

This is a digression. But a relevant one. Because Mori Phelps has a sister-shaped hole all through this book. She knows she is not one person, she is half of twins, and the other half is gone, and the difference matters, and it will always matter, and part of what this book is doing is Mori learning that it won't always matter in the same way. And I needed that. She also has a Grampar, and aunts, and like that; when I am complaining bitterly about lack of grandparents and aunts and like that in books, I will have another exception. There will be somebody for me besides Noish-pa now. This is a great relief.

I am also feeling like I am forever comparing things papersky writes to things pameladean writes, but I think that where Lifelode is like The Dubious Hills, Among Others is more counterpoint to Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary. In some ways it's doing the same thing but completely opposite. That is to say, they're both about young women who are passionately involved with books, very specific books, and for whom a circle of kindred spirit friends is key to the text, but plotwise/structurally they go more or less completely opposite. But in both cases I think you have different but still really good experiences if you have or have not read the books the characters have read. And if you haven't you can write them down and go find them. I did that with Tam Lin in college. It made for a very pleasant January when I was supposed to be learning FORTRAN, but you don't have to learn FORTRAN, you just sort of do FORTRAN, so there was plenty of time for Janet's things instead, and I expect some of you will have bits of your lives like that, when you can just read Mori's books instead of what you're supposed to be doing, and it will be highly companionable.

I loved this, in case it wasn't clear by my going on about the sorts of things I love in it. It does the sorts of things I love well. I stayed up later than I ought finishing it, when I didn't finish it on the plane and then had dinner with my folks and Grandma and then had to unpack and make the computers work again and things.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: gwynnega
2010-08-26 10:34 pm (UTC)
I can hardly wait to read it!
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[User Picture]From: hobbitbabe
2010-08-26 10:40 pm (UTC)
I got a peek at that story a while ago and ever since I have been impatient to have it be published so I can find other people to talk about it with, even if I have to give everyone a copy for Christmas to do so. I completely agree about books that give one a reading list. What book was it where the character says that he or she was afraid to read Growing Up Weightless for fear it wouldn't live up to the title? It might be Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary. I'd never heard of it before that and I had exactly the same thought.

That is a very interesting idea, the comparison with Pamela Dean stories. The other idea I am stuck on lately is that somehow some of Jo Walton's worlds are mixed up in my head with Guy Gavriel Kay's worlds. Especially when I finished The Last Light of the Sun I was weirdly disappointed because I felt like Jo's part of the story was better.
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From: tournevis
2010-08-27 12:57 am (UTC)
I was one of the lucky ones to read a working manuscript and I cannot wait to see how she finished crafting it. January is so far away!!!!!
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[User Picture]From: sartorias
2010-08-27 01:43 am (UTC)
Interesting--I see Pamela's and Jo's works in different paradigms completely. Odd, how perceptions change.

I was also intensely, utterly thrilled because more than any other it seemed a novel for "us"--and I'd been fantasizing how it will explain us to the mainstream Out There, but when I gave it to a very savvy sympathetic reader, she said it will be incomprehensible to them Out There.

So I shall be watching with trepidation how it is received Out There, though I still think Us will love it with a pash.
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[User Picture]From: alecaustin
2010-08-27 02:27 am (UTC)
"With a pash"! That's beautiful.

(Really looking forward to getting a chance to read Among Others. Cuz, y'know.)
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-08-27 02:49 am (UTC)
Yours is in the Alecbox.

Even if you are awful you do not have to go in the Alecbox for a timeout. Even if you bark and bark at the UPS man.
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[User Picture]From: timprov
2010-08-27 02:50 am (UTC)
Possibly for cross-checking though.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-08-27 02:53 am (UTC)
Slashing too. Except it's still an awfully small Alecbox for an entire Alec.
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[User Picture]From: alecaustin
2010-08-27 04:30 am (UTC)
Well, I will try to avoid incurring any penalties, then. Because I remember the box in question, and it *is* rather on the small side, despite being larger than the one I'd originally planned to use.
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[User Picture]From: timprov
2010-08-27 02:31 am (UTC)
Mori Phelps has a sister-shaped hole all through this book. She knows she is not one person, she is half of twins, and the other half is gone, and the difference matters, and it will always matter, and part of what this book is doing is Mori learning that it won't always matter in the same way.

Despite not having read the book at all yet, I suspect that it is otherwise rather unlike The Prestige.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-08-27 02:51 am (UTC)
Hmm, mostly, yes.
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From: zeborahnz
2010-08-27 07:08 am (UTC)
And I was only briefly distracted thinking of what kind of tragedies would befall a person that they could intently search for only twenty words over the course of three hours and, oh Lord help us, not find them

Perhaps he was just pretending to search, so he could think Deep Thoughts without the risk of someone next to him striking up a conversation? I've certainly been known to feign sleep in similar circumstances.
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[User Picture]From: dichroic
2010-08-27 08:05 am (UTC)
I'm definitely looking forward to reading this one and hoping it will be available in e-book form so I can (without jumping over hurdles to get it).
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2010-08-27 10:01 am (UTC)
I usually try to avoid reviews of books I haven't yet read but know I plan to - but I couldn't resist finding out what you would have to say about this one! (Though what I have mainly learned is that it has a release date - hooray! I'd missed that).

Thanks for a review which made me even more eager to read the book, without overloading me with things I didn't want to know (ie, prefer to learn from the book itself).
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2010-08-27 12:07 pm (UTC)
If you like at some point I will talk more to you about the ways in which I think they're opposite, then, because you are already well aware of what happens in Among Others and cannot have any bits of it ruined by me.

I wish your 286 would turn on, too.
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[User Picture]From: wild_irises
2010-08-27 12:42 pm (UTC)
I read Among Others some time back, being gifted with an early copy by pnh, and I loved your review. I share sartorias's concerns about reception in the big world, but I felt like it was written for me and mine, and that's such a lovely gift.

I intend to buy it and reread it (and give some away as gifts) at my first opportunity.
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[User Picture]From: alecaustin
2010-08-27 05:43 pm (UTC)
I would be exceptionally pleased if they did that. I suspect that it would not go over well with marketing or the buying departments at the big chains, though. =/
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