Hugo Review – Best Novel – Among Others

As I previously mentioned, I’m attempting to consume as much of the 2012 Hugo Short Listed works in order to make an informed vote.

I started with the Best Fancast category and am now on to the category of Best Novel.

This is my review of Among Others by Jo Walton.

Note, this review is obviously subjective and most definitely biased, based on the topics and style of writing which interest and entertain me.

This review may contain SPOILERS.

Synopsis: Recovering from a magical and physical battle against her mother, which killed her twin sister and left her with a broken leg, Morwenna flees from Wales to England to live with her estranged father. Full of magic, Mori is thrust into the middle of a magical wasteland, the English boarding school she attends, and due to her physical injuries, continues her exploration of the world of science fiction and fantasy literature.  Using magic to find herself a group of friends, the local Science Fiction club, she begins to build relationships with them and her father, but in the process of using magic, opens herself up to magical attack from her mother, leading to an inevitable confrontation.

Plot: The plot is fairly basic, the big events seem to have happened prior to the commencement of the book, and as such, the book concentrates more on Mori’s dealing with the aftermath of losing her twin sister, fleeing to England, and her journey through young adulthood. There’s a bit of plot involving the ongoing battles against her mother and eventual confrontation, but it’s spread pretty thin, this is more of a character driven story than plot driven.

Characters: I don’t have a great deal of experience being a Welsh, disabled teen-aged girl fleeing to an estranged father and attending an English boarding school, so I can’t definitively comment on the quality of the Mori’s characterisation, other than it seemed plausible in line with boarding school adventure books I’d read in school. Mori definitely gets the majority of the characterisation, with a little for her friends and family, all seen through her eyes. This meant that the only sense of character we got from her friends and family was coloured by her perceptions, leaving us unsure of the validity in several instances – much like the reality of family and friendships.

Scope: The scope is fairly narrow, a focus on Mori’s handling of a several month period in a fairly contained geographical area – England & Wales.

Writing: The writing is reasonable, I don’t recall cringing at any particular sections, nor being incredibly impressed by any sections.  Some of Walton’s passion for the genre certainly shows through in Mori’s opinion of various Speculative Fiction works.

Pacing: I found the pacing incredibly slow. On a first read, I wasn’t at all interested in Mori’s discovery of Speculative Fiction and Fandom (which struck me more as fan service than book relevant), nor her non-magical tribulations, I just wanted to follow the main plot as such, and it seemed to drag on for a very long time before being suddenly very quickly resolved.

Other comments: I suspect this may be one of those novels which is split on gender lines, with a greater proportion of females liking it than males. I certainly didn’t feel like I was the target audience for this novel (which is fine), but it lessened my ability to relate to the characters and enjoy the story.  The engagement with Speculative Fiction will probably be more interesting if I re-read, but seemed mostly filler to me. I completely missed the point of the sub plot with the Aunts’ magical abilities and apparent control of Mori’s father, I’m not sure if it was meant to contribute to Mori’s development of a relationship with him, or provide some sort of excuse / reason for him abandoning his children previously.

Overall: I didn’t really enjoy Among Others, it didn’t pick me up and carry me along in a “must keep reading, can’t stop” sense, and if it weren’t in the Hugo Packet, I’d probably never have picked it up or continued reading past the first few chapters. It’s just won a Nebula award so is obviously of a high quality, I think it’s just a book which isn’t to my personal taste.

Having only recently read Feed, I’m going to leave Deadline until last, to see how it goes as a standalone novel, and pick through the others in a semi random order. I think I’m in the mood for some Space Opera next.

One Novel reviewed, four to go. Next: Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey



Best Novel Background Material:

Short listed in the Best Novel category for the 2012 Hugos are:

Among Others, Jo Walton (Tor)
A Dance With Dragons, George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra)
Deadline, Mira Grant (Orbit)
Embassytown, China Miéville (Macmillan / Del Rey)
Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey (Orbit)


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