Friday, October 31, 2014

What we're reading: Science fiction love

I was persuaded by Daryl M., reference librarian at Buena Vista and science fiction maven, to read Among Others, by Jo Walton. Although it has won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for science fiction, I would call this book almost more magical realism. On the surface, it's about a girl who has had a hard life--her mother is mean to her, her twin died, she ran away to her grandfather but he can't take care of her, so Social Services ships her off to her father, who deserted the family when she was a baby. He doesn't want to deal (nor do the aunts with whom he lives), so he sends her to boarding school, where most of this story takes place. Under the surface, though it's about magic, fairies, and above all, science fiction. The main character, Morwenna, is a voracious reader, and this book talks about almost nothing else. So…

This is a five-star book for me, and yet I would find it hard to recommend it to very many people. I can think of maybe three people I know who would both get it and enjoy it. But if you were enrolled in last summer's Teen Summer Reading Program, "Set Forth…New Worlds Await You," here at Burbank Public Library and gained a new insight, respect, or even love for science fiction because of it, read this book and take copious notes! This book will tell you every author and every book you *should* read if you want to be a well-read person in science fiction.

Apart from that…the book is beautifully written. The language is exquisite. The thoughts are so carefully crafted to convey exactly the meaning that's wanted. That's rare. It also takes the unhappy-teen-at-boarding-school genre and turns it in a new direction, as well as giving insight into class consciousness, British cooking, inter-library loan, the existence, behavior, and meaning of fairies, the ethics and use of magic…there's a lot to be found in this book! I don't wonder that it won those awards…but it's not a book for everyone, or even for everyone who likes sci fi. But for those of us it IS for…wow. So maybe give it a try.

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