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The Just City

(Thessaly #1)

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  7,067 ratings  ·  1,268 reviews
"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--al
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published January 13th 2015 by Tor Books
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Jo Walton It's 110,000 words.

The first three chapters are on Tor.com http://www.tor.com/2014/12/15/the-jus... which seems to me the best way to check whether yo…more
It's 110,000 words.

The first three chapters are on Tor.com http://www.tor.com/2014/12/15/the-jus... which seems to me the best way to check whether you like the style.

It's three different first person points of view, which seems to me something people either like or do not.

All my books are different, so even if you had read my stuff before it wouldn't necessarily mean you'd like this one. But I'm kind of fond of it.(less)
Jo Walton It depends what you like about it. If you want books about people trying to set up Plato's Republic, well, my two sequels are about it.

The things tha…more
It depends what you like about it. If you want books about people trying to set up Plato's Republic, well, my two sequels are about it.

The things that are closest to this, in my opinion, are Mary Renault's "The Last of the Wine" and "The Mask of Apollo". LotW has Socrates, MoA has Plato, both of them have philosophy and love. They're set in ancient Greece.

If you want SF that considers philosophy and deity and how to live, you might really enjoy Ada Palmer's "Too Like the Lightning" and sequels. A draft of this was influential on my thinking when I came to write this.(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.80  · 
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 ·  7,067 ratings  ·  1,268 reviews

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Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁
Reviewed by: Rabid Reads

3.5 stars

THE JUST CITY by Jo Walton . . . is one of the strangest books I've read in long time.

The premise is fascinating: the Greek pantheon exists outside of time, meaning the gods can move through it fluidly. They can also snatch humans out of their various centuries and dump them in a time and place of their choosing.

Pallas Athene does exactly this, answering the prayers of intellectuals from as far in the future as the twentieth century and as far in the past as to b
Heidi The Reader
When the god Apollo seeks to understand the workings of the mortal mind and heart, he asks his sister, Athene to help him. She reveals a personal project in which she has gathered together philosophers from across time and space and put them in a settlement called, "The Just City". In this city, set near a volcano that will one day explode and destroy all evidence of Athene's project, a group of men, women and children will try to recreate the hypothetical state described in Plato's "Republic".

Michael Finocchiaro
Another GR commenter suggested the Thessaly series and I was enthusiastic to give it a shot. The story is a fantasy about Athena and Apollo creating Plato’s Republic in pre-1600 BC Thira (currently the Greek Cycladic island Santorini). The concept was interesting, but I didn’t bond with many of the characters. There was a feminist bent to the story in its strong female characters, but a rather weak position on rape and, while condoning male-on-male sexuality, a complete absence of female-female ...more
May 25, 2015 rated it liked it
2.5 – 3 stars

I’m not quite sure what it was about this book that didn’t quite gel for me, but while I appreciate the scope of what Walton attempted I wasn’t super impressed by the results. The basic premise is that Apollo and Athene decide to pick an out-of-the-way island in a backwater of the timestream and attempt to build Plato’s Republic in a way that is both free from outside obstructions and which will not unduly affect the course of history. To this end Athene cherry-picks thinkers and ph
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is a truly original book, one that had me deeply engaged and thinking about it quite a bit. When it’s good it’s fabulous, and when it’s bad it’s horrendous, and it’s a thinky book to begin with, so this will be a long review.

The Premise: The Greek gods are real, and exist outside of time but can time-travel at will. As an experiment, Athena decides to grant the prayers of various people throughout the ages who have prayed to her for help in setting up Plato’s ideal Republic. A few hundred a
This is not my first 5 star review this year. But it is the one I am most excited about. The end of this book moved me to tears because it was so profound and so beautiful and at the end it sort of just smacks you in the face when you realize how very important and relevant it all is.

I picked up The Just City because GoodReads said: hey- you liked Too Like the Lightning, read this! Well- it both is and isn’t like Too Like the Lightning. There is a lot of philosophy involved but I don’t think the
Sherwood Smith
May 23, 2015 added it
Shelves: fantasy
I needed a second reading to begin to articulate why I love this book so much. Walton does something different with every story arc, sometimes writing stand-alone novels (Lifelode, Tooth and Claw, Among Others) and sometimes series (Farthing series and her Arthurian-in-another-world series). The Just City is the beginning of a series, coming to an abrupt stopping place after a climactic debate.

One thing I appreciated on this second reading was the book's structure. I seldom notice such things as
Allison Hurd
Don't read this review if you're hoping to join the SFFBC group read without any impressions!

Jo Walton is brilliant, I think I can say that without much need to couch. The start of this book I was GIDDY with anticipation of where this was going. Unfortunately, she seems to have slightly more difficulty with endings of books, and so by the time I got there my enthusiasm had waned somewhat.

CONTENT WARNINGS (a list of topics): (view spoiler)
Tudor Ciocarlie
Jan 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015-my-best-of
How can a novel that has as a climax a dialog between Socrates and goddess Athena, be anything but utterly wonderful? I've rarely encountered such a rich, flavored, powerful food for thought. ...more
This book tries to do too much and ends up doing nothing. On its surface, it’s complete catnip: time travelers set up the Just City as described by Plato in The Republic, aided by the goddess Athene. There are several POV characters, including the god Apollo in the guise of a teenager, one of the girls brought to grow up in the Just City, and one of the teachers who comes from Victorian England. The book begins with Athene founding the city (“Atlantis” har de har) and moves forward through the n ...more
Althea Ann
Nov 04, 2014 rated it liked it
An interesting book about an interesting project.

As an experiment investigating human nature, the goddess Athena decides to set up a 'Just City' based on Plato's 'Republic.'
To do this, she zaps every human being who ever prayed to her that they could live in Plato's 'Just City' (there are more than one might guess, from widely varied times and locations), and collects them all in ancient history, on the remote island that's sometimes been known as Atlantis. Their prayers are answered: with the g
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
With apologies to Sarah and Gabi (and others) who loved the book, I really did not and will hide my review under a spoiler tag.

(view spoiler)
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Full Review can be found at TenaciousReader: http://www.tenaciousreader.com/2015/0...

A very thought provoking and insightful book that makes you question the way things are in the world, as well as how they could be (and if that “other way” would really be better or worse).

The Just City is an experiment carried out with by a Goddess. Her goal was to create perfectly balanced society where its citizens are judged solely on their own merits and abilities. There is to be no preferential treatment,
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-re-read, 2015
Time travel, robots, Greek gods, Atlantis, and Plato’s Republic. . .

The Just City opens with Apollo deeply perplexed. Why wouldn’t Daphne dally with him? He’s a god! Why would she rather be turned into a tree by Artemis? Athena tries to explain that humans care about making their own choices, but that doesn’t make sense to Apollo’s god-brain way of thinking and he really wants to understand, so when Athena suggests he temporarily take on mortal form and join her philosophical experiment to creat
Dawn F
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alex Bright
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
That final chapter -- I'm in awe. This entire story was beautifully written, with no clear-cut answers to what is definitely a thought experiment for us all. Walton presents to us the pros and cons of a society (loosely?) based on Plato's The Republic, but doesn't do the thinking for us. I can't wait to see the continuation, as I'm sure the formation of a truly just city (cities?) will only lie at the end of a great deal of conflict, both literal and philosophical, if at all.

(view spoiler)
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Oh man, so good. I could just read Jo Walton and Ursula K. LeGuin forever and ever. Who needs anybody else.

I think a big part of the reason that I like Jo Walton so much is that she and I have similar (seemingly disparate) interests. So she writes stuff that I would write about, maybe, if I were a writer. Or that I like to read about, anyway. Victorian novels! Dragons! Ancient Greece! Time travel! Robots! Alternate timelines! Moon bases! Fairies! Reading other science fiction books! YES PLEASE.
Liz Janet
Dec 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favourites
“There will always be some who see excellence and envy it instead of striving to emulate it.”

Thanks to Tor for sending me this advanced-reader-copy in exchange for an honest review.

Ever heard of Plato’s Republic? Did you find it ridiculous? Do you agree/disagree with his plans? Well this is definitely a book to be read if you answered any of this questions, however is not really necessary to have read The Republic before, Jo Walton will explain everything to you.

Athena is my favourite Greek G
Wanda Pedersen
My second book this year in which the Greek gods play main roles as characters (the first being Kraken Bake by Karen Dudley).

Unfortunately, for me, I preferred the playful Kraken Bake to The Just City. Now I’ll confess at this point that I probably have read some Plato during my university education, but I don’t remember it at all. It made no impression on me. So I am not the target audience for this novel.

I do like the idea that the god Apollo decides to become human in order to learn things t

That being said, I really can't wait for this to come out so I can see what other people think of it. The basic idea is that what if, throughout thousands of years, some of the people who read Plato's Republic prayed to Athena to live there, and what if that wish was granted? How does the idea of the perfect Just City actually work with imperfect people? The story is told by a freed slave, a bluestocking from the 1800s, and Apollo. The combination of earnest dedication to debate
Originally borrowed a review copy from Robert, then got approved for it on Netgalley, and then finally bought it, because I felt awful. It is not Jo Walton’s fault as a writer in any way; the book is fascinating, I just couldn’t sit still for it. I still don’t know why. I didn’t connect with it in the same way as I have some of Jo’s other books, but then I haven’t necessarily taken ages to read them because of that. There’s even stuff I love here: tons of classical references, as fun to spot as ...more
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’m still not sure what genre to put this in. It has elements of sci fi and fantasy but feels more like historical fiction.

The Just City is an experiment started by the goddess Athena. She founds a city based on Plato’s Republic and brings in people from different time periods (who have all expressed interest in building such a city) and robots (who do the grunt work). Then they buy slave children to raise in the city.

This is sort of how I imagine the robots.

Maia is a “master” taken from the 180
And here it is, the review has now appeared on a blog of some nature. On the B&N one to be exact: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sc... ...more
Kitty G Books
This is a book which took me far to long to get through considering the length of it but I will mention I had about 2 weeks where I didn't even try to read this. This was my first Walton book and it was one I decided to read as a buddy read which I think certainly made it more fun. The general premise of this is that we follow the gods Apollo and Athene as they decide to create a new city called the Just City, a concept which was originally theorised and proposed by Plato. The concept for the ci ...more
I really wanted to love this book, because I’ve read Jo Walton’s writing before (the Small Change trilogy) and really enjoyed it, and because the premise of The Just City is so intriguing. Curious as to whether the idea of the perfect city laid out in Plato’s Republic could ever be a reality, the goddess Athene gathers together ten thousand Greek-speaking children and several hundred teachers from across a span of more than two thousand years and places them on a Mediterranean island in the dist ...more
Apr 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
What a brilliantly layered, masterfully executed, and at times devastating novel. This has definitely moved Jo Walton onto the list of my favorite sff authors.

I wavered a bit between 4 and 5 stars for this one, but ultimately came down on 5.

(view spoiler)
Athena and Apollo try to create Plato's Republic. They pull together philosophers and dreamers from all eras of history to set the city up, then people it with ten year old Greek slave children. The book follows two of these children, Simmea and Pythias (actually Apollo reincarnated as a mortal), as they grow and learn within the system Plato's intellectual descendants have hammered out.

The characters are wonderfully well crafted. Their minds are so perfectly described that it was only about two
4.5 stars

It's been quite a while since I read a book that drew me back to its source, and it's definitely been a while since I read The Republic. And this was no run-of-the-mill integration either - an imaginative creation of an experimental city.

To learn more about people, Athene creates a version of Plato's ideal city, The Republic, and populates it with 10-year old children taught by volunteers drawn from varied continents all over time. We get to see the city's creation, how practicalities s
First Second Books
So . . . what if the goddess Athena abducted everyone who wished that they lived in Plato’s Republic and got them to actually build it on Atlantis? Would it actually be awesome?

(Whether or not the city is awesome, the book is awesome.)
Oct 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I don’t know if I’m going to be able to explain why I liked this book so much. I recently picked it up for free as part of Tor.com’s eBook of the Month Club. I believe they offered it in September. I only read the first couple sentences of the synopsis, and it didn’t sound particularly appealing to me, but I thought I’d give it a try anyway. I vaguely remember liking Jo Walton’s book Farthing reasonably well when I read it several years ago.

The general story in The Just City is that various peop
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Jo Walton writes science fiction and fantasy novels and reads a lot and eats great food. It worries her slightly that this is so exactly what she always wanted to do when she grew up. She comes from Wales, but lives in Montreal.

Other books in the series

Thessaly (3 books)
  • The Philosopher Kings
  • Necessity

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