Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Just City (Just City 1) by Jo Walton

The Greek gods Apollo and Athene want to see how Plato’s Republic would work. They bring on the island of Thera (which will be completely destroyed in volcanic eruption removing any changes to the real timeline) 10,000 ten-year-old children, who are bought from the slave traders during several centuries and adult supervisors (who at some time have prayed for Plato’s Republic being real) through history – many of them women who haven’t been able to be what they want at their own time. The children are then brought up using the teachings of Plato as a guide. The city is filled with real artwork which has been rescued from fires and disasters during the whole human history and its library is lifted from Alexandria just before the Fire. Both Apollo and Athene are living in the city disguised as children. Everything seems to go according to the plan, but when children are old enough, Socrates is brought in to teach rhetoric and he starts to ask questions, some hard and very disruptive questions.

An extremely good book which examines the fascinating basic idea from many different viewpoints without forgetting some of the less idealistic and ethical details of the great plan. Are they supporting and encouraging slavery when they bought the children? Is it ok to bring children, even freed slaves, to the city without their consent? Is Plato’s idealistic and utopic plan really the best way to run a city? Why are the gods doing what they do? Is it reasonable to assume that gods – especially Greek gods – are good or mean well? An enjoyable thought experiment, which demanded some background checking about ancient philosophers and philosophies. The downside is that the story will continue in the next book – I believe that this story could and should have been told in one book.

368 pp.

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