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January 22, 2011

Among Others Spoiler Thread
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:12 AM * 70 comments

So some people have finished Among Others and probably want to discuss it, while others who intend to read it are still awaiting copies and hope to find out what happens for themselves, in their own time.

Here’s a thread to discuss the startling revelation that Mori is the long-lost daughter of Lady Dedlock but was stolen away to avert a prophecy, that her voyage on the ship Rosebud with the butler—whose hobby is making chairs—culminates in a maiming battle with her long-lost father, and how she then masters the twin arts of law and cross-dressing to further her adventures.

Wait, did I say that in my outside voice?

(People may also be interested in this Livejournal entry, where Jo answers questions in deep and spoliery ways.)

Comments on Among Others Spoiler Thread:
#1 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2011, 06:15 AM:

The Others are all dead...

#2 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2011, 12:56 PM:

After reading the comments over on the Livejournal entry, I am somewhere between delighted and relieved to find that I was not just reading things wrong to find Wim a bit creepy, decidedly pushy, and being set up for Doing Something Wrong at some point in the future, even if it doesn't happen in the book.

#3 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2011, 01:06 PM:

Nice. I didn't know Rosebud was the ship.


#4 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2011, 05:01 PM:

Just passed page 161 (Sun 16 Dec 1979), and thinking that can't be a mistake, it's too obvious.

Also thinking I'm pretty sure I'd read The White Dragon in mass-market paperback by 1979. (I think I read Dragonflight, Dragonquest, The White Dragon, and then the Harper Hall trilogy, in that order, one summer up in the Adirondacks, which would have to have been no later than '79. But it's also possible that I read The White Dragon later, and am misremembering.) The UK edition must've trailed the US edition by a year or more.

And that the book Mori really needs to read to understand magic is Neal Stephenson's Anathem, but unfortunately for her, it won't be written for decades.

#5 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2011, 05:11 PM:

Avram, 4: Not a mistake; Jo's confirmed, somewhere. There's textual confirmation later in the book, too.

#6 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2011, 05:41 PM:

Avram #4 I read the Pern novels a couple of years later (80/81) so I can't say. I read the Harper Hall trilogy about the same time. We got both UK and US editions of books in Jamaica, depending on who imported them.

Possible, ahem, spoiler. Jo seems to think that Radio 1 used to be the Light Programme. That was what Radio 2 used to be. Radio 1 was created to play pop music in competition with the pirate stations (Radio London and Radio Caroline) and Radio Luxembourg that were playing pop and rock, while the BBC wasn't (the Light Programme played jazz, the Home Service did mostly talk, and the Third Programme broadcast serious music and cricket).

#7 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2011, 07:58 PM:

For that matter, they're only on Sign of the Unicorn, when in the US The Courts of Chaos had already been out for more than a year. Definite lag.

Given that (and I wish I'd noticed this in my beta read) the twins' play including "the walls of Angband" seems like an anachronism. The Silmarillion was only published in 1977. Would it have come out, and the girls read it, in time? Seems like "Isengard" or "Barad-Dûr" would have worked better.

#8 ::: m.k. ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2011, 10:11 PM:

What I wasn't expecting was how the experience of growing up in a schizotypal environment was told. I grew up not understanding that I had a schizotypal home environment (there was a lot of denial, and one can explain away quite a bit of insane behavior with certain hippie lifestyle choices). My educational trajectory gradually helped me shed much of what I had once believed, and understand that I could frame what certain family members were experiencing as full spectrum sensory hallucinations. Among Others certainly isn't the first book I've read in this vein (Justine Larbalestier's Magic or Madness trilogy comes to mind); it's the first to resonate with me like this.

Fragano #6, I am inclined to interpret that as being how Mor thought of it rather than as Jo getting it wrong.

#9 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 02:31 AM:

OK, finished.

Y'know Delany's thing about concretized metaphors in SF? Among Others can be read as a concretization of the idea of Impostor Syndrome. I mean, not only does Mori have a raging case of it, but also the way magic works gives her an additional excuse for thinking she doesn't deserve to be truly well-regarded. And on top of that, she's an actual impostor!

#10 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 03:04 AM:

Avram @ 9: That's perfect!

And I agree whole-heartedly with your hate on Heinlein from the other thread -- page 80, entry for October 28th. The predilection for incest* in Heinlein's fiction has always struck me as unpleasant, but having young Mori bring it up as justification in the context of her father kissing her does make me want to smash Heinlein in the face. As well as her father, of course.

*If memory serves: son + mother, brother + sister, father + twin daughters (well, they're his mirrored clones or whatever, but they've grown up in family together like father and daughters).

#11 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 03:11 AM:

janetl @ 19: I had much the same reaction to that moment in the book, re: Heinlein. Mori's reaction makes perfect sense in her own context and understanding, and had me cringing away from the text in a giant DO NOT WANT when that occurred. It's just as well that I don't actually own any Heinlein of my own, any more; some might have been tracked down to go out a window at that point otherwise.

#12 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 03:45 AM:

I love Mori's logical analysis of the rules of behavior at her school and in her new family. As she deciphers them, she chooses which to follow, and which to ignore with an independence that I wish I had at 15. I was reminded of Cordelia Vorkosigan puzzling out the local customs in Barrayar:
"She tried writing out a list of rules she thought she had deduced, but found them so illogical and conflicting, especially in the area of what certain people were supposed to pretend not to know in front of certain other people, that she gave up the effort."

#13 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 03:49 AM:

In general, and in keeping with Patrick's mention of "rewiring one's consciousness" by reading SF and fantasy, it seems to me that one of the important steps in a young fan's journey to maturity is realizing that Heinlein's ability to sound as if he knew what he was talking about was much greater than his ability to actually know what he was talking about.

In particular, re-reading Expanded Universe, and the line about how "[t]he most expensive thing in the world is a second-best military establishment", at a point in my life where I knew a little something about game theory, that made me re-evaluate my trust in the man.

#14 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 07:39 AM:

m.k. #8: Mori rather than Mor, surely!

#15 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 01:15 PM:

Fragano, I had had the impression that both Morwenna and Morganna both called themselves and were called both Mor and Mori, almost interchangeably, even before the accident. Did I miss something which specified which nickname went with which?

#16 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 01:34 PM:

While we're on concretized thinking, Mori's experience of the way magic works, in the book, might be exactly the way that magic really works.† However, it is definitely exactly the way that the "magical thinking" of pathological mental states‡ works, assuming that all events and consequences are products of one's own intent.

The sort of intense moral paralysis and self-doubt which that "magical thinking" produces are beautifully well told. I don't doubt that despite Mori's sense of liberation at the end of the book, it will take her years or decades to work more fully free from it. It's a lovely alluring trap, itself like something out of a fairy tale.

† It is exactly the way it has worked, or seemed to, in my experience; but see preceding paragraphs. It may be that if magic works, it only works for those who are at the time mad enough to think that way.

‡ I wrote "mental illness" and then changed it because it has the wrong implications in a case like Mori's. She strikes me as capable of living a mentally healthy existence even while seeing herself surrounded by fairies, ghosts, and magical wars - even if nobody else sane agrees on their reality. Sanity is something you do, not something you are.

#17 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 03:30 PM:

I'm not sure the expression "the walls of Angband" occurs in LOTR, but Angband is certainly mentioned in _Fellowship_, and "gates of Angband" does occur. ("Yet at the last Beren was slain by the Wolf that came from the gates of Angband, and he died in the arms of Tinuviel.")

#18 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 04:45 PM:

Clifton Royston #15: I read it as Morwenna being consistently Mori, while Morganna was consistently Mor.

#19 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 05:24 PM:

Anyone else confused by the magic at the end? We're told that you can never know whether magic has worked, because it's all coincidental and stuff, and then bang, flaming spears and walking trees.

I guess the flashy stuff was happening in the fairy perception channel, where most people wouldn't be able to see it even if they were right next to it. But still, it seems to run contrary to the earlier descriptions of magic, where even the magician herself can't be certain about it.

#20 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 05:40 PM:

Avram @ 19: Not particularly, no. It seems to have been foreshadowed by a few different things:

1) The illusions mentioned before, that happened before the book started. "Seeing terrifying things coming at you" is right out there as something it can do, though I think the implication is that only other magic-using people, who can see fairies anyway, would be able to be so affected.

2) The presence of her mother trying to get at her in the dorm, and then in the hospital. Even if no one else can see it, that's a distinctly felt presence that seems to be having physical effects when it occurs.

3) The procession of the dead. The ghosts showed up, and took their leaves, and went through, and there was a tangle there, and a single leaf remaining with all the others gone... That was pretty concrete too.

So I read the flaming spears and walking trees as being part of that same set: probably invisible/incomprehensible to other people. (After all, the girls though the car headlights were another illusion, but it's implied the car drive just saw two girls, not any of the other illusions going on.) They're powerful, and they're shocking, but they don't seem to me like a serious break from anything else that's been shown to be possible already.

#21 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 06:23 PM:

Avram @ 19 & Fade Manley @ 20: There was a question about whether the magic that Mori did to affect change in the world actually worked. There wasn't any question that she saw fairies, heard them talk to her, and so on. So the battle at the end, all seen only by Mori, seemed perfectly within the logic of the book to me.

BTW, still only 4 reviews on Amazon, and one of those is a Klausner.

#22 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 06:24 PM:

David: Angband is mentioned in the text and it's all through the appendices.

As for the end, Fade pretty much says what I'd have said.

(I'm on a train with WiFi!)

#23 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 07:15 PM:

Fade @20, except the thing with her mother getting at her while she's in bed reads like a classic case of sleep paralysis. A skeptic would dismiss it as a neurological problem. And, given the plausible-deniability aspect of magic, it might be one. In other words, this is could be a magical attack that manifests as a neurological condition, much like Mori worries that her karass-seeking spell manifested by altering people's behavior and desires. The illusion attacks could likewise be manifesting as hallucinations, the sort of thing caused by sleep deprivation or a neurological disorder.

#24 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 07:38 PM:

Avram @ 23: I was thinking that the visibly magical — seeing and talking to fairies, terrified sense of her mother getting at her at night — could all be in Mori's imagination, and Fade Manley seems to be saying that, too. I think you're in agreement.
Then I remembered that Wim told her that he could see and hear the fairies when he was holding her walking stick. He could be lying to her of course. Ah, yes. Where did that stick come from?

#25 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2011, 11:48 PM:

janetl @ 24
Well, assuming Mor is reliable in her diary, Wim certainly heard the same things is she did when they talked to the faeries when he was holdng her stick. His interpretation varied from hers, but seemed grounded in the same experience. Simple lying doesn't seem to be the case.

#26 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 12:24 AM:

Fragano: I will cheat here and go directly to Jo's words on the subject: "They were Morwenna and Morganna, and they were both known as Mori or Mor or Mo, and when the surviving one is asked wasn't that confusing, she says yes." (I find this link very worth reading for much more than that one point.)

#27 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 09:54 AM:

Clifton Royston #26: I suggest you go back and look at the book. You'll find that the narrator refers to her sister as Mor throughout. I might have missed a spot or two, but that was my impression.

#28 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2011, 11:42 PM:

Fragano, and other readers, I apologize for setting the wrong tone. Rereading my comment at #26, I see it came off as snarky and "gotcha" rather than the airy humor I'd been trying for.

I do intend to reread and see how Mor/Mori/Mo calls herself, but that's really not that important in the grand scheme of things. (Also my son is pressing me to hurry up and read Inkheart first so he can talk about it with me.)

#29 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 01:08 AM:

Well, about 40 pages in I was wondering if we had a case of Unreliable Narrator. And so we do, but not at all in the way I was thinking. My guess was that there had never been more than one of them (as seen by outside observers) and that the end would have to involve a reunification of the split personalities. The occasional switching of names played into this.

And around page 294 I became aware that there were very few pages left, and how was this all going to be wound up?


#30 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 01:35 AM:

Page 10. Mori wonders if there are fairies in America, and do fairies speak Welsh all over the world.

If Old World fairies came to America, surely they are Irish rather than Welsh. And Mori even knows this, when she comments why there wasn't a Welsh migration to the new World on the scale of the Scottish and Irish ones.

And then I set the book down and pondered for a long while. (And not for the last time.) America does have its own traditions of supernatural beings who are best seen out of the corners of your eyes. Some of them were written about by that Appalachian writer, what's his name? I think of his name whenever Fade Manley posts here on Making Light. Ah yes, Manly Wade Wellman.

And every few pages distractions like this pop up. Mori has different reactions to some of the books than I did, or she likes ones I barely remember (such as the AMber series, which I devoured several of in a long weekend but couldn;t tell you anything about them now), or books that I somehow never got around to. Sometime soon I'll have to read it straight through to really let Mori's and Mor's story sink in, instead of thinking back to my own.

(Oh, and if the timing had been a year later, the issue of Ansible that Mori sees would have had my name in it somewhere.)

#31 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 01:48 AM:

Even the notes are interesting. This bit:

...there's no such place as the Welsh valleys, no coal under them, and no red buses running up and down them; there never was such a year as 1979, no such age as fifteen, and no such planet as Earth. The fairies are real though.

put me in mind of this:

note: all characters in this novel are fictitious except possibly the Martians

But there I go off again about one of my own favorite authors, whom Mori never mentions.

#32 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 02:03 AM:

Allan @ 29: I was wondering the same thing for a while towards the beginning of the book, but at some point I felt clear that that just wasn't what was going on. I'm not sure how Jo signaled that, but it worked for me.

#33 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 08:20 AM:

Allan @29 and Clifton @32, I had the same reaction also (wondering about unreliable narrator) but found something convinced me of the reality of the magic ... it might have been the acquisition of the walking stick.

I must admit that I missed the name difference completely. Will reread at some point.

I also didn't find Wim all that creepy. There were a couple of things he did that I didn't like, but he seemed to step away from them and I had attributed them to bad judgement rather than bad character. And at the end he showed up for her, along with Daniel and Sam. Sigh.

What I keep thinking about is not the plot, but the idea of interacting with books in that way, to learn about yourself and the world; books can be as strong an influence as family. Or is it that books can be family?

#34 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 05:56 PM:

Re: Wim: I can't decide how I feel about him. I had gotten sympathetic towards him until he told Mori "They're ghosts. You just think they're fairies." And the whole "maybe they gave you the stick so I could see them." But this may be because of my own teenage experiences with dating a guy who explained things to me when I knew more about them.

I also really want to read a full and complete telling of the battle with Liz! The pieces of the story that come out are just so gripping, and I want to know the rest…

I absolutely love how the fairies talk, using a sort of dream-logic grammar. (People talk in my dreams like that -- saying a few ambiguous words, but I know exactly what they're supposed to mean.)

And I love the ambiguity of most of the magic, the tension between wanting to tell Mori she's being ridiculous and should stop blaming herself for everything, and the possibility that she's right and she did make these things happen, and what that would mean.

And the Heinlein related bits…so true to my experience of being a young teenager adopting my understanding of morality from sources that seemed properly authoritative, and not seeing until later how they could be harmful.

I can't wait for Keith to read it. He grew up on SF much more than I did; his parents had a library like Daniel's.

#35 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 07:34 PM:

Clifton @ 32,
I think it was a negative signalling. Mori is minimailly unreliable, but in the ways that we can expect a young teen to be. In order for her to be really unreliable, we would need a much stronger signal, such as absolutely contradictory behavior, or internal inconsistency in her story.
Without that, and because it says it's a genre story on the spine, we're willing to grant that magic is possible.
If this was mainstream fic, the magic itself would be indicative of an unreliable narrator.
My take, at least.

#36 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 07:44 PM:

Caroline @ 34
The story of the battle of Liz would be a terrible tragedy, though. Daniel broken, his children left behind, and his sisters crippled in his rescue.
And Liz left able to try again!

And how the Aunts must worry that Morganna is going to follow in her mother's footsteps. She's lied about who she is and she's cast powerful spells for her own benefit. Then she spurns their help and protection.

#37 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2011, 08:22 PM:

Steve Downey @36, I know it would be. But I still want to hear it, to know fully what happened to Mori's sister, what Liz's power is really like, how she planned to take over the world and how they ultimately broke that plan. I know there's a reason it's alluded to and not told outright; what I mean to say is, the book captured my imagination and emotions so strongly that I want to know more, to know everything that happened, even the parts that would be so hard to read.

#38 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2011, 05:05 PM:

Steve @ #36: Are you talking about the English Aunts, or the Welsh Aunts?

The Welsh Aunts simply accept Mori as who she is, with all her losses and hurts, which includes accepting that she needs to be for Morwenna as well as for Morganna at present.

Despite Mori's certainty, I was not convinced that the English aunts were in any way conscious of using magic or conscious that anybody (such as Liz) could use magic. Their power seemed to me to be more the kind of power that many people have in our world, "The Social Construction of Reality." It's the ability to simply define the situation, to lay out rules and have (most) people accept and buy into them without thinking too much: Proper girls go to a proper school. Dinner is such-and-such. Girls wear earrings.

In Mori's worldview, that power of definition overlaps with magic a good deal, but given that magic power seems to derive in part from focusing Intention and Will directly into some object over a period of time - viz cooking as a kind of magic - it's not clear that you even have to know you are doing magic to be doing it. (But then, why does she see the aunts as attempting to use magic to control her, and not see the same thing of the popular girls who manipulate the social reality at the school?)

#39 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2011, 06:35 PM:

I, too, thought at first that perhaps Mor was unreliable. I attribute this to having seen The Other many years ago. I wasn't sure Mor had had a twin sister at all; maybe she just had a split personality and couldn't get into the other one after her accident.

Of course, now I know better, but I was unsure for a while.

I really liked the book overall. In fact, I finished it this morning when I should have been getting ready.

I think the triplicate aunts really were trying to do evil magic on her. Whether they actually thought of it in those terms is irrelevant. They sent her to a school where music isn't allowed, for heaven's sake! Such schools should be closed permanently and their staff put in prison.

Except the librarian.

#40 ::: Michael I ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2011, 09:11 AM:

Xopher@39 where music isn't allowed

Can't have music. It might lead to dancing...

#41 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2011, 12:07 PM:

I'm starting to think that the three Aunts are trying to do good, in their own misguided way. One theme in the book is that magic is more powerful than you are, and it rarely works in exactly the way that you intend. If they were trying to save Mor and her father from her mother, using magic, one way to do that would be to 'turn off' Mor's magic and make her useless to her mom's plan to take over the world. (ok, I'm getting pinky and the brain flashbacks now. not good).

#42 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2011, 12:48 PM:

I thought the English aunts weren't trying to do active evil for Mori or for Daniel. I'm divided between whether they have good intentions, badly carried out, or whether their intentions are entirely to make things as easy as possible on themselves and collateral damage is ignored. In either case their tactic of protection (let's just wrap you in bubble wrap and keep anything from happening to you at all; it's so much safer and quieter that way) might as well have been evil. Road, good intentions, etc.

#43 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: January 27, 2011, 11:43 PM:

OtterB @ 42: The book belongs to the reader and all that, but you might want to know that Jo Walton has said on her blog that she meant that the English aunts did use magic. Here's the expanded Livejournal comment thread.

#44 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2011, 01:40 AM:

OtterB @ 42: Re-reading your post, now I wonder if you did think they're using magic. Whether they are or not, "bubble wrap" is a good way to describe their approach to life.

#45 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2011, 04:27 AM:

janetl, I did think the aunts used magic, just that their intent may have been protection rather than evil domination.

#46 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2011, 10:16 AM:

OtterB: As any teenager can tell you, there's a fine line between protection and evil domination.

#47 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2011, 06:27 PM:

janetl, and the imposition of a rule of absolute safety is firmly on the evil-domination side of that fine we've discovered in America post-9/11.

#48 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2011, 08:39 PM:

janetl and Xopher, agree that the line is very fine. Destruction by overprotective domination is still destruction, even if it's not evil domination. It does suggest different tactics for fighting it, or at least a different calibration of how hard you strike back.

#49 ::: Teka Lynn ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2011, 11:40 AM:

@39 Re music: Thinking it over, I was surprised how there was really no music at all in Mori's life. I can see how she might think that some genres were "for boys", although it seems unfair (but very teen) to assume that a girl would only like certain types of music to "get" boys. But no one on either side of her family seems to have anything to do with music, that I recall: no one sings (except Gramma once?), no one plays an instrument or listens to the radio for fun at home, except for the rather shallow friends. Music class is mentioned in passing, and Mori clearly didn't take it because she had history instead (how can anyone be forced to choose between history and music?!). Very odd to me. Mori mentions Dylan at one point, and that's about it.

#50 ::: Euphonia Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2011, 09:28 PM:

I thought the school not allowing music was because music *is* magic, and it's part of the school's whole anti-magic thing.

That made me think that the English aunts had sent her to that particular school to protect her/keep her away from magic, as well as recalling it with fondness because they had been sporty girls and had enjoyed their time there.

The school not allowing girls non-uniform clothes and allowing them few personal affects makes sense from that point of view, too: a personal radio/turntable/cassette player would be a thing girls are not allowed to have at the school. (It could have perfectly sensible reasons -- from space and logistics - nowhere to put a turntable in a dorm - and not making noise while the other girls are studying, to not having music cover up the sound of what the girls are getting up to, to electronic devices needing to be checked for safety, etc.)

But we know from what Mori says that personal affects that are used and loved - and many people love their music-playing devices - become magical. So it is part of the school's anti-magic thing.

#51 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2011, 02:09 AM:

David Goldfarb @7 -- it's established that they'd read the Silmarillion, in any case: p 103, talking about Donaldson "I expect Lord Foul's Bane... is more like Tolkien at his worst, which would be the beginning of The Silmarillion." And at the time, it was quite the anticipated book -- they would have found a copy.

And I don't understand why Jo says such nasty things about The Tree Lord of Imeten. It wasn't that bad, he says with a wry grin.

The book is indeed very much like Larbalestier's Magic or Madness set in a lot of ways, but the playing with reading SF/fantasy as part of the growing up is different. In Justine's books, there isn't really a way for the magic users to make sense of what's going on; SF gives Mor a model to help her understand what she's perceiving.

#52 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2011, 06:17 PM:

The more I think about the aunts, the less inclined I am to credit them with even misguided protectiveness.

This may be my personal bugaboo, but putting someone in an environment without music strikes me as abusive on its face. They know she's magical, and they try to take her magic from her; this isn't because they think magic is bad (they practice it themselves) or because they think it will protect her (they know-or-should-know that it will just make her helpless to defend herself).

No, they do these things because they want to enslave her the way they've enslaved her father.

I'm hoping there'll be a sequel where she takes them out.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2011, 06:44 PM:

@ 52... a sequel where she takes them out

Exeunt aunts?

#54 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2011, 06:46 PM:

Jo has done some work on a sequel, but it seems to be stuck at the moment. There is some precedent for her being stuck on something for a long time and then finally finishing it, so it's not completely hopeless.

#55 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2011, 08:44 PM:

A sequel would be really cool. I don't have much to say about this novel, other than it was wonderful. In all sorts of ways. Ways people have already said. But a sequel would be really cool.

#56 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2011, 04:25 PM:

I just finished this and can only gush about it at the moment because it's so incredibly Jo shaped and you can almost see it being taught in school a century from now with a teacher insisting that clearly, those fairies were just a metaphor for something or other and one indignant boy or girl at the back of the class knowing better.

Great book, g

#57 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2011, 07:35 AM:

I loved this book as well. I bought it as an e-book so that I could read it quickly and take part in discussions like this one and then I found that I didn't want to discuss it, I just wanted to let the story rest in my mind.

I didn't spot Wim's creepiness but having seen it mentioned, I do recognise that there's something more than the young boy's self-absorption that I originally saw. I definitely saw the English aunts as well-intended with a view to propriety and minimising obstacles. Walton's post that the aunts were using magic and wanted her ears pierced knowing it would remove the magic bothers me.

I'm very much looking forward to reading this again.

#58 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2011, 04:38 PM:

A thought occurred to me: with Mori so unfairly incensed about the publisher's blurb comparing Thomas Covenant to Tolkien, I wonder what she would have thought about Larry Niven saying that Saberhagen's Empire of the East was better than The Lord of the Rings? I checked, and the edition with that introduction came out in 1979, just the right time, too. Only it was in the USA so Mori wouldn't have seen it until later, if at all.

I find myself sort of amused at the idea of Mori swearing off Niven forever. (Of course, by 1979 Niven was already well past his peak, imo.)

#59 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2011, 08:47 AM:

Larry Niven said that? It's not too late to swear off Niven forever now!

#60 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2011, 11:36 AM:

Jo, it's not safe to swear off a writer because of hir readings of other works. A critic, maybe....

#61 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: February 10, 2011, 09:35 PM:

I don't think I still have my copy of the book, but I distinctly remember Larry Niven writing an introduction in which he compared Empire of the East to The Lord of the Rings, and then remarked something like, "I think it's better than The Lord of the Rings, but I recognize it's a matter of taste."

#62 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2011, 11:17 AM:

Tom: I never really swear off writers, but I do sometimes become unable to read their books because of exterior factors. The exterior factors kind of stop me from being able to sink into the story. Kind of:

"In the nighttime heart of Beirut" (He really thinks Saberhagen is better than Tolkien?) "in one of a row of general address transfer" (How can he think that? How could anybody with half a brain think that?) "booths, Louis Wu" (I mean seriously? Saberhagen?) "flicked into reality" (Saberhagen's all right, I suppose, but -- I should read this sentence again, I haven't taken any of it in. Or maybe I should do the ironing. I mean, he thinks Saberhagen is better than Tolkien.)

I'm not commending this process, just reporting on it.

#63 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: February 12, 2011, 01:01 PM:

I understand the observance, Jo (a technique I often use on my own actions!). Thanks for the expansion/unpacking.

#64 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 14, 2011, 12:12 AM:

Fade Manley #20:

Goodness! The ghosts took their *leaves*.

Not much to add except that I enjoyed it tremendously.

#65 ::: LMM sees yet more spam. ::: (view all by) ::: February 08, 2012, 08:52 AM:

#66. Above.

#66 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2012, 06:41 PM:

just for the novelty of the thing, I'll post a non-spam-related entry..
loved the book, detested Wim, reaction much as Fade Manley's @2. I kept thinking at Mori, "no, no, not Wim - go talk to Hugh instead you foolish thing, don't let this pretty face and long blond hair blind you to his mean soul" but it didn't work..
The trembling balance between magic and quotidian understandings was perfectly maintained, quite marvellous.

#67 ::: Cadbury Moose suspects a spam probe ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2012, 05:14 AM:

#69 has no link, but the poster name is suspicious and the content looks like it could be rivetted into a water heater with no trouble at all.

Could the gnomes nark first and subspec afterwards, please?

#68 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2012, 09:10 PM:


#69 ::: Cassy B ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2012, 09:11 PM:

That's ok, Xopher; you can have the next one. {beam}

#70 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2012, 09:14 PM:

LOL Cassy! I'm just glad we're on the ball enough to get the spam reports in right after the spam itself. Can't have too many people doing that.

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