The Just City

The Just City

Book - 2015
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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.
Publisher: New York : Tor, 2015
ISBN: 9780765332660
0765332663
Characteristics: 368 p. ; 22 cm

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sgcf
Mar 30, 2017

I wanted to like this book, nominated for the Canada Reads 2017 longlist. Although I kept on reading, the writing felt stiffly artificial, but I guess that’s what this speculative fiction regarding a timeless experimental city was all about. The detached attitudes toward rape and infanticide were particularly galling to me, given that this city was established to produce citizens who truly understand Truth and pursue excellence. However, the plot accelerated toward the end with the most engaging character for me, Socrates, and his cross-examination of Athena to get at the morality of the whole concept of The Just City.

m
morrich
Mar 12, 2016

I enjoyed this book and the ideas that were discussed in it. It is a very intelligent book that makes one think, but it is still an easy read. It is "elegant in its simplicity".

Vero_biblio Sep 08, 2015

The Goddess Athena sets all the required conditions to establish the Just City, as described by Plato in his dialog The Republic. Five years in, in appearances, the experience is successful, but when Sokrates arrives in the city he exposes the unmet needs and desires of the inhabitants, including the ones of the awakening consciousness of the workers (robots from the future brought in to do the heavy work). The story comprises of many philosophical dialogues between the masters and 'the children', all of whom are seeking to attain excellence and justice. A very interesting and entertaining read for people interested in ancient Greece and in the nature of volition and human nature.

m
mexicanadiense
Jul 14, 2015

This was the first book by Jo Walton I'd ever read, and perhaps I let the "Award Winner" buzz on the dust jacket overcook my expectations.

Quick synopsis: Olympian Gods attempt to create Plato's Republic on Earth by grabbing famous Platonists (except, em, Plato) throughout history and "rescuing" 10,000 Greek-speaking 10 year-old children from slavery to serve as the living clay from which the society can be moulded, and a bunch of robots from the far future (because the Gods exist "outside time") to do all the manual labour. Unsurprisingly, things do not go according to plan.

Don't get me wrong: I didn't actively dislike the novel, but neither did I ever particularly warm to the "POV" characters or find the plot particularly engaging. Sokrates doing his whole "gadfly" thing was a hoot, it must be said, but he is not one of the 3 POV characters narrating the story and thus we only ever experience his thinking second-hand, as it were, via the young idealists Simmea and Maia and the immortal God Apollo (definitely one of the least relatable protagonists one could imagine), who has decided to slum it in human form for one lifetime in order to learn about "equal significance".

On the whole the book was probably at its strongest when pondering the many vexing practicalities of bringing Plato's Republic to life, and at its worst when dwelling on the interpersonal relationships between the Masters and Children.

j
JON MANN
Mar 22, 2015

Excellent introduction to Plato's "Republic". I am now in the process of reading all Jo Walton's books in the local library.

s
shortrach
Jan 10, 2015

Bravely absurd plot, lots of fun.

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morrich
Mar 12, 2016

morrich thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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morrich
Mar 12, 2016

Sexual Content: Some content my not be suitable for younger readers.

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