So I bought a supporting membership for Chicon this year, for reasons that I'm sure seemed good at the time -- OH, RIGHT! I decided that I felt very strongly about "Remedial Chaos Therapy" deserving a first preference over "The Doctor's Wife" purely because people were being OUTRAGED that a MERE SITCOM was getting MAINSTREAM COOTIES all over their precious nerd awards. And also I wanted the option of nominating Legend of Korra Book 1
for Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) next year. Because I really want to see my show getting crushed by The Avengers
and Game of Thrones
, I guess.
Anyway, with membership comes the voting pack, electronic copies of all nominated novels, novelettes, novellas and short stories. And this was pretty great, because I was really keen to read Jo Walton's Among Others
, which has been universally praised by fannish reviewers, and now I can do so for free!
The problem is that I ... kind of hated it. A lot.
The plot is this: Mori (Morwenna, or Mor) is 15, Welsh and it's 1979. Following an accident that left her with a crippling injury and a dead twin, she runs away from her mother, who an evil witch, spends two months in a Children's Home, and winds up being sent to live in England with her father, who abandoned his family when she was a baby.
The novel is written in the form of Mori's diary, and much of it deals with the science fiction she's reading. I've read about 80% of the books mentioned, and I have to say, other than giving fellow fans a warm glow, I don't really see what the book talk adds to the novel. Mori could have been obsessed with romance, or thrillers, or 18th century gothic literature, or Sherlock Holmes, and very little would be different.
Mori also sees fairies. Which is nice for her, I guess. She's sent off to boarding school, where she discovers the class system, and eventually becomes part of a local SF book club, while getting a boyfriend and fending off her mother's magical attacks.
The good bits: the depiction of chronic pain is AMAZING, and I had to take Panadol because I was having sympathetic pain. The boarding school bits are okay. The scenes with Mori's paternal grandfather, a Polish Jew, are interesting, and could have formed the backbone of an entire (better) book.
The bad bits: the narrative voice. Maybe I was just spoiled by Michelle Cooper's Montmaray books, a YA trilogy which is also narrated through the diary of a teenage girl, but this reads more like a 40-something's LJ than a teenage girl's diary. There are flashes of the "real" voice, but they're few and far between. She doesn't sound like a teenager, even a very precocious teenager.
(Said my friend yiduiqie
when I asked her to have a read and tell me if I'm being unfair, "I thought you were joking about the LJ thing, but then it opens with a quote from a LiveJournal comment!")( The rest is spoilery, and also includes incest! )
Especially disappointing is that I loved every one of Jo Walton's novels, so I know she can do better. And worse, not counting A Dance With Dragons
, this is one of only two Hugo-nominated novels with female protagonists.
From there I went on and read Fields of Gold
by Rachel Swirsky, one of the nominated novelettes, in which an Average Joe dies and finds out that (a) the afterlife is just ... the dead, still hanging out; and (b) his wife killed him.
What was most notable for me, after Among Others
, was how vivid the characters' voices were, and how quickly they came to life. So even though I didn't really like them, I totally believed in them, and that was enough to carry me through the 40 pages.
(Fields of Gold
also contained incest. I can only assume this year's Hugos are sponsored by the Game of Thrones