Audiobook Review: Among Others by Jo Walton

16 01 2012

Among Others by Jo Walton

Read by Katherine Kellgren

Audible Frontiers

Length: 10 Hrs and 39 Min

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: Among Others is a novel full of that magical brilliance that I just cannot properly explain with words. It is the ultimate genre blending novel. It is a fantasy novel for science fiction fans, a character study for those who love well plotted tales. It is an adult novel that embraces the tropes of children and young adult literature, adding texture and created something totally unique.

Grade: A

There are two types of writing styles that always find ways to amaze me. The first style is a sort of simple workman’s style. It’s concise and clean, without an unnecessary word. The authors that use this style are supreme technicians who know just the write moment to add an adjective, and never clutter their action. It comes off seemingly easy. Reading is makes you think, "Heck, I could do this," but sit down and try, and you realize that you can’t. Sure, it’s a honed craft, but simplicity can be an art form all its own. Yet, the other type of writing that amazes me, well, is simply magic. As I read, I become ensnared in their words, yet, I have no clue why. I am taken to worlds that I’m not really interested, involved with people I really wouldn’t choose to be around, and told stories I would never actively seek out yet I am captured in their web. Somehow, an author is able to capture those achingly beautiful moments you find surprisingly in the normal mundane course of your life and put them in words. In Jo Walton’s Among Others, we have the diary style writings of a totally unreliable teenage narrator in the late 1970’s. She is a Welsh girl in a proper British boarding school who believes in fairies and magic, and is recovering from grief and neglect. It seems an almost stereotypical set up for some romantic Young Adult novel that I would avoid like one of Mira Grants apocalypse inducing plagues. Yet, based on some rave reviews by bloggers I respect, and a desire to take even more risks with my reading this year, I gave it a shot.

Among Others is a novel full of that magical brilliance that I just cannot properly explain with words. It is the ultimate genre blending novel. It is a fantasy novel for science fiction fans, a character study for those who love well plotted tales. It is an adult novel that embraces the tropes of children and young adult literature, adding texture and created something totally unique. No, it is not a perfect novel, it has a tendency to go on long rambling rants, and full of distracting side trips, yet, even these flaws only compliment a main character that is utterly impossible to fully understand. This novel lives and dies on the readers’ ability to embrace a totally unreliable narrator who, as she even admits, does not think like anyone else. Mori Phelps is that aggravating type of young genius, who is precocious, wise beyond her years, yet also self delusional, and living in a fantasy world that only part of may be true. Her thought process is irretrievably linked with the science fiction novels she loves, to the point were the vocabulary is full of terms straight out of Vonnegut and Brunner, but yet, still, even readers who aren’t familiar with those works, understand her meanings based on context. Walton makes a lot of choices in Among Others that just shouldn’t work, but the voice of her narrator is so readable and unusual that they do. Among Others is that rare book that I just simply adored, yet can not really explain why. I can understand that some may hate it, that they wouldn’t be able to embrace the main character, and will become bogged down in what could be perceived flaws of the novel. Yet, through some magic Jo Walton entranced me, and I couldn’t help but love this weird yet beautiful little novel.

Katherine Kellgren gives another enchanting performance in her reading of Among Others. She reads it in a sing songy Welsh accent, that comes off a bit much at first, but as you ease into the story it perfectly suits the feeling of the novel. By the end of the novel, I was jarred back into reality when the "This is audible" guy came on, longing to be taken back to Wales embraced by the characters at the novels finale.  This is an audiobook for listeners who prefer performance over the simple reading. Kellgren gives life and authenticity to Mori’s character and I believe, does a true service to Walton’s quirky novel. Among Others is one of the short listed novels in the Indy Lit Awards in the speculative fiction category, along with Ready Player One, The Magician King, and 11/22/63, and I really don’t envy the judges who must choose a winner from this group.








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