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The Just City by Jo Walton
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The Just City

by Jo Walton

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Thessaly (1)

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English (40)  Finnish (1)  All languages (41)
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
In the aftermath of his pursuit of Daphne, in which she chose to have Artemis transform her into a tree rather than yield to him, Apollo seeks an explanation from Athene. The goddess of wisdom talks about puzzling concepts like volition and equal significance--it hadn't occurred to him that just because he wanted her, Daphne didn't necessarily want him. She then recruits him to a little project of her own: building Plato's Just City, from The Republic.

It's just an experiment.

They choose an island that will later be destroyed by a massive eruption, destroying the evidence of their experiment and leaving only the legend of Atlantis behind. The teachers, the Masters, are three hundred men and women from across time who have read The Republic in Greek, and have prayed to Athene that they be allowed to participate in building the Just City.

The one thousand and eighty children who will be raised in the Just City are bought at slave markets across the Mediterranean ant the Middle East, from times when slavery exists, and where the annual return of slave buyers looking specifically for ten-year-old children creates a demand which slavers of course work to fill.

Apollo wants to understand mortals better, and incarnates to become one of the children sold to become part of the population of the city, under the name Pytheas. Athene doesn't go quite so far, and participates in the planning and building as herself for the first few years, before transforming herself into the appearance of a child, taking the name Septima, when the children start arriving.

For most of the children it really is a better life than they would have lived. One of the girls, Simmea, a brilliant but not very attractive child, is thrilled to find herself learning reading, writing art, mathematics, music, and philosophy. Others, such as her friend, the boy Krebes, are not so pleased, bitterly resenting being brought there and kept there against their will, and by no means believe the Masters are good, trustworthy, or of good judgment.

As the children grow up, educated together and encouraged to strive for excellence, but also gradually fitted into Plato's theoretical scheme, complications arise. It's not quite so neat and tidy, dividing the children into the metaphoric metals of their aptitudes and characters, especially when it's important to arrive at certain proportions of gold, silver, iron, and bronze. It gets worse when the Festivals of Hera begin, when the children are deemed adult enough to start breeding the next generation, with one-day "marriages" with man and woman chosen for each other randomly--at least in theory.

Then Sokrates is rescued involuntarily from his date with death, and brought to the city to teach rhetoric. And he starts asking all sorts of awkward questions.

This is a wonderful exploration of ideas, of freedom and justice and autonomy, and of an attempt to make Plato's Just City real. It's also an exploration of some interesting and complex characters, and the clash between beautiful theory and messy practice when real people are involved.

The Just City is the first of a trilogy, but the second volume, The Philosopher Kings, is already out, and the third, Necessity, is due out in June of next year.

I found this a thoroughly satisfying read. Recommended.

I bought this book.
( )
  LisCarey | Sep 19, 2018 |
In an experiment, Greek goddess Athena takes thousands of children and several hundred teachers across time, along with some robots and tosses them onto an island in ancient history. Why? So they, along with Apollo (disguised a mortal human), a young Victorian woman (once Ethel, now Maia) and a child (Simmea) can wrestle with the questions of Plato's 'Republic'.

Sounds fascinating, right? It's been years since I've read Plato's works but I loved the premise and always enjoy seeing what authors do with mythology. The initial chapters were fascinating. Apollo not understanding why Daphne would rather become a tree. Simmea's life prior to being dropped into this weird situation. Maia's longing for more out of life than what was available to her in the Victorian era. The characters seemed vividly drawn and interesting (and I hate multi-POV split narration in books).

The book very quickly went downhill afterwards. Like others, I was disturbed at the rape in the story (which, while not graphic, seemed to be needlessly present in the book). I was initially hopeful in reading that maybe we'd get away from this in the "before" lives of these people before they came to the Just City and then I was hopeful that maybe we'd get something more after discussing how physical responses of the body do not dictate whether it was rape or not. But it just gets...dropped. I'm not sure if it was to telegraph that there were going to be problems with this entire experiment anyway but like others I just didn't see why it was necessary to have at all.

Considering the discussions of justice, virtue, etc. in the 'Republic' this just seemed like an unbelievably missed opportunity to apply the idea of the 'Just City' to this situation. It could be argued that the attitudes towards women, rape, consent, etc. were not exactly priorities for Plato and the like but if you're going have this science fiction take on Plato's work it seems like it'd be something to explore instead of something that just ate up space in the text.

I do wonder if I had read it closer to when I actually studied this stuff and whether it would have connected with me more deeply.

It's a great premise but holy cow it just felt like the author didn't have anything to *say*. I'm glad I ended up buying this as the trilogy from Book Outlet (so cheaper than buying each book separately) but I wish I had borrowed this from the library instead. Skip it. ( )
  acciolibros | Jul 16, 2018 |
This book so good, I haven't been so swept away in a long time. ( )
  yamiyoghurt | Jan 29, 2018 |
I think the end was a bit abrupt, but I really enjoyed this book. ( )
  Lindoula | Sep 25, 2017 |
Could not finish this one: Not badly written, just not very interesting for me. Lost me when they started creating the city with all the discussions about what was best for this and for that, etc... ( )
  Guide2 | Sep 12, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
The Just City is a glorious example of one of the primary purposes of speculative fiction: serving as a map to the potentials and miseries of a possible world. But it is also a map that should be scrawled with the words, “here be dragons.”
 
Brilliant, compelling, and frankly unputdownable, this will do what your Intro to Philosophy courses probably couldn't: make you want to read The Republic.
added by bluejo | editNPR, Amal El-Mohtar (Jan 15, 2015)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jo Waltonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Sanzio, RaffaelloCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stafford-Hill, JamieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Wherever you go, there are plenty of places where you will find a welcome; and if you choose to go to Thessaly, I have friends there who will make much of you and give you complete protection, so that no one in Thessaly can interfere with you.

—Plato, Crito
The triremes which defended Greece at Salamis defended Mars too.

—Ada Palmer, Dogs of Peace
Yes, I know, Plato; but if you always take the steps in threes, one day you will miss a cracked one.

—Mary Renault, The Last of the Wine
If you could take that first step
You could dance with Artemis
Beside Apollo Eleven.
—Jo Walton, "Submersible Moonphase"
Dedication
This is for Ada, who took me to Bernini's Apollo.
First words
She turned into a tree. It was a Mystery. It must have been. Nothing else made sense, because I didn't understand it.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Haiku summary
Free will, consent, gods,
time travellers, robots, let's try
Plato's Republic!

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765332663, Hardcover)

"Here in the Just City you will become your best selves. You will learn and grow and strive to be excellent."

Created as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future—all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer's daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge,  ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome—and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her.

Meanwhile, Apollo—stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does—has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of the children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human.

Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives—the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself—to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect. What happens next is a tale only the brilliant Jo Walton could tell.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:34 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Created as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future - all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past. The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer's daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge, ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome - and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her. Meanwhile, Apollo - stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does - has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of the children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human. Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives - the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself - to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect. What happens next is a tale only the brilliant Jo Walton could tell.--Provided by publisher.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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