Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Recommendations from Jo Walton

I don't think I've ever read a novel with so many recommendations for other novels in it. Jo Walton's Hugo- and Nebula-winner Among Others deftly integrates critiques of much of the science fiction published before 1980. Written in diary form, it seems like a natural way for a voracious reader like the main character, Mori, to express herself.

I'm not sure what it would be like to read this book if you were new to science fiction, but for someone who has read pretty widely, it's like talking to a friend about books you didn't know anyone else had read.

Ursula LeGuin, Sylvia Louise Engdahl, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Silverberg, Susan Cooper, C.S. Lewis, Roger Zelazny, John Brunner. The authors and their books go whizzing past.

One of the things I loved about the story, and Mori, was her total innocence about how publishing works. If she had read one book by an author, she didn't know how to find out whether the writer had published other books (it takes place in 1979-80... so no internet for Mori). But then she starts to go to the library and finds out about inter-library loan. Soon, the books are flying out the door.

And now I have to go find copies of books she mentions that I've never read, despite the fact that they're by some of my favorite authors:
  • The World Inside and Dying Inside by Robert Silverberg
  • Time Without Number by John Brunner
  • Gate of Ivrel by C.J. Cherryh
  • Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelazny
  • Babel 17 and Triton by Samuel Delany. I was scared off of Delany by a mistimed attempt at reading Dhalgren when I was 18. But Mori describes Triton as Delany's response to LeGuin's Dispossessed, so how can I not read that?
  • Pavane by Keith Roberts (an author completely new to me)
  • The Charioteer by Mary Renault. I know, it's not science fiction, but Mori shares my affection for Renault's ancient Greek stories and I haven't read this one.
Time to go check the used book stacks at Uncle Hugo's.

Oh, and one last bonus: Mori dislikes Thomas Hardy, too.


There are three books that Mori never mentions, and whose omissions seem odd, given her interests. I wonder if they were not available in the U.K. at the time?
  • The King Must Die by Mary Renault (though she specifically mentions the sequel, The Bull from the Sea)
  • Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny (a much better book than Creatures of Light and Darkness, which is discussed)
  • The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner (one of his very best)


Pete Hautman said...

I think you read Dhalgren about two years too soon, and now it is probably too late. Curious to hear how you think Triton (aka Trouble on Triton) holds up in 2014.

Daughter Number Three said...

It's always a bit embarrassing to admit the books you haven't read.

Gina said...

I'm learning more about Jo Walton through your posts! I'm a member of a sci fi and fantasy group that meets once a month, and we're always looking for new authors to discuss. It'd be interesting to introduce them to Jo Walton. Thanks!