Sunday, July 19, 2015

Among Others, and habits of SF/F reading

I grew up reading science fiction and fantasy as if it were the air I breathed. It all came from my dad, of course, who not only read them, but played them, getting me into role-playing and tabletop gaming too. Of course, it helped that the epic, fantastically lush Lord of the Rings movies came out in my impressionable junior high school years. My dad and his friends insisted that I couldn't see them until I read them, so I struggled through (especially the second part of The Two Towers, which is oddly now one of my favorite sections). LOTR wasn't quite my normal diet of SF/F. I didn't read many of the classics, the greats, the hard science; I tended instead to read much more recent fare. R. A. Salvatore's Drizzt books, and others from the Forgotten Realms universe. Ender's Game and sequels. His Dark Materials. The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. Rhiannon Lassiter's Hex trilogy. I also tended to re-read, incessantly. I had a full personal bookshelf, stacked two rows deep, and by the time I hit junior high school, wasn't frequenting the library much. (The first time I tried to check out books from my junior high school library, and was crossly told I was only allowed to check out one at a time was quite a traumatic event, but that's another story...)

Anyway, it meant that, like most other readers of Jo Walton's Among Others, I approached her book as an insider, a fellow lover of SF/F, who recalled exactly what it was like to turn to this genre for delight, for learning, as an escape from the tricky teenage years, and out of the sheer joy of discovery. And as someone who almost - and sometimes did - believe in the true magic of the world around her. The difference was merely that my reading habits were different. Mori was far more voracious, far more eager to read everything and anything. She didn't re-read much (and complained about it when she had to) and instead constantly consumed the new. It was kind of amazing, actually, how well she was able to find those new-to-her books considering the lack of internet in the 1970s. I should have had a much easier time learning about new authors and titles, but I didn't take advantage (can you believe it took years for me to learn that there were any sequels to Ender's Game?). I got through about fifty pages of constantly stopping to write down authors' names and book titles before my loving husband looked up a complete list (thanks again, internet!). My library to-read list is already terribly long, but I'm really excited to add some new entries. For one thing, it's appalling that I have never read Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, or Dick, and apparently I also ought to try out Zelazny, Tiptree, and Silverberg too.

Often described as a love letter to science fiction, this book would be pretty inaccessible to anyone else but is sheer joy for us. It's not a perfect novel, but the exclamations it produced anytime a book I did know intimately was mentioned (or better, critiqued in just the same way I do), made it an instant favorite. Jo Walton was able to capture just what it was like.

Favorite quotes:
It doesn't matter. I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books. (25)
Interlibrary loans are the wonder of the world and a glory of civilization. Libraries really are wonderful. They're better than bookshops, even. I mean bookshops make a profit on selling you books, but libraries just sit there lending you books quietly out of the goodness of their hearts. (59)


  1. I absolutely loved this book, and I was amazed at how many of the books I had read, given that I don't define myself at all as a science fiction reader. I managed somehow not to review this book, though, even if I only read it in 2013!

    1. Whereas I hadn't read most of them, so my to-read list completely exploded! Since reading Among Others, I've now read both Heinlein and Asimov for the first time. Jo Walton is a real gift to SFF.