Jo Walton has written my favorite book of 2011 (maybe the whole decade). Among others is not like other books. The number of layers in this book is so great that I will probably have to re-read it several times just to get a general idea.
The really curious thing about this book is that I, a forty-seven year old male boringly normal librarian in Norway, can identify so closely with a fifteen year old magic using welsh girl with a bad leg going to a very british boarding school. It helps of course that Mor (short for Morwenna) is fifteen in 1979, the year I turned 16, and discovers Science Fiction literature in much the same way I did, and with the same fierce need that I had. 1979 was not a good year in the world and not a good year for me. Unlike Mor I was pretty well off in the family department, but was ill at ease in school and the rest of the world. Science Fiction literature both helped me make sense of the world and catch a glimpse of a greater side to my own existence than what I saw in a norwegian suburb just before the turn of the decade. 1979 was a year I have avoided thinking about for a long time and at first I was reluctant to revisit this part of my life, but Jo Walton manages to make the whole experience so much more human and understandable than I would have been able to myself. So now I am actually able to look back on this year with a fonder eye than I would have had on my own. Thank You, Jo Walton, for giving me back this period of my life.
The descriptions of the discovering of new books and new authors, reading and discussing Science Fiction resonates really well with how I remember it for myself. This joy of discovery is rarer these days, but I can still experience it, as I do now with Among others (which Cory Doctorow reviews so much more competently than I can).
The other thing Jo Walton does better than any author I have read, is to blend magic with the world as we know it. The understated yet immensly vital part of the book that magic plays is in how Morwenna handles the conflict between her everyday life in a world where magic is fiction, and her own use of magic to fight her evil mother and preserve what she loves.
I am unable to do the wonderful language in this book justice, but I want to say that it certainly is a great part of why I now have a new top five book in my life.