Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Philosopher Kings (Just City 2) by Jo Walton

The book continued the story, in which Greek gods Apollo and Athene established a city on the island of Thera before the Trojan War. The city was modeled on Plato’s Republic. In the first book, the city was established but, after Socrates was brought in and he started to ask some very probing, too probing, questions, everything seemed to break down. Athene (who was at the island as a god) turned Socrates to a fly and disappeared. Apollo stayed on the island, as he was in corporeal form in a real human body and he had fallen in love with a human, Simmea. The original city had split into several new cities and all of them tried to follow Plato’s ideal in some way. One faction had even left the island. The cities squabbled amongst themselves and stole artworks from each other’s stores. On one such raid, Simmea was killed. Apollo almost killed himself, so that he could return with his full god-powers and save Simmea, but she stopped him just before she died. Apollo wanted to get revenge for her death and assumed that those who left the island might be the culprits. He had several children and some of them joined him on the mission to find the missing colony. It turned out that the children of a god, even of a god incarnated as a human, were special, with godlike powers and might to even ascent to godhood themselves. The expedition eventually found what they were looking for: the people who had left the Just City fifteen years earlier. They had established new cities and brought Christianity to ancient Greece – thousands of years before the birth of the Christ. They embraced not only some of the better parts of Christianity, like teaching local natives the basics of hygiene and agriculture, but also some less reputable aspects of it, like flaying heretics alive.
A good book, almost as good as the first part. It had some very intriguing philosophical and historical points. I had to make several Wikipedia searches while reading to find out the background of several details. The writing was smooth and enjoyable. Sometimes, the transitions of the character viewpoints were slightly hard to keep track off, but that is probably more of my failing than book’s. The children of Apollo were very interesting characters and I’ll look forward to learning how they use their powers.
It seems that the last part of the series will be radically different, as the book transforms into pure science fiction. However, the end of this book had more than a little shades of deus ex machina. But, when you are dealing with the Greek gods, that is probably something that cannot be helped and was something the author apparently did on purpose.

352 pp.

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