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The Just City

(Thessaly #1)

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  5,320 ratings  ·  989 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 which seems to me the best way to check whether you like the style.
It's 110,000 words.

The first three chapters are on 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…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)

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Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ Rabid Reads-no-more
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 be contemporaries of the Greek philosophReads
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 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 the project, a group of men, women and children will try to recreate the hypothetical state described in Plato's "Republic".

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 thi
Jan 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review was originally published at the Books and Pieces blog.

Jo Walton is one of those writers that you can happily recommend to people who love SFF and people who think they don't. Her novels are always something different (she's a genre blurring genius) , something special and something that will leave you with a lot of thinking to do.

If you've ever read any of Jostein Gaarder's philosophical novels (The Solitaire Mystery, The Christmas Mystery, Sophie's World) then this book will
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
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 I am vis(Lifelode,
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.
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 next ten y ...more
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
Mar 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015, 2016-re-read
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 experim
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Full Review can be found at TenaciousReader:

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, people there should
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 Goddess,
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 an

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 dedicatio
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!
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
Sep 03, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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 le
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 p
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.)
And here it is, the review has now appeared on a blog of some nature. On the B&N one to be exact:
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 on
Sep 18, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, mystery, adult
3.6 is my final verdict.

This book was so different from my normal reads it was refreshing. Robots, 10 year olds, People from all times of history, Greek Gods... All mangled into the one City? The city Plato wrote about? Well what could go wrong?... How about most things.

I haven't read Plato's The Republic so I went into this pretty naive in regards to what his view was and what his goal was but I think I picked it up pretty quickly.

The Just City is just that, it's a cit/>
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’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 people ac
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 distant past. Th ...more
Apr 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
...The Just City is without a doubt one of the most interesting books I've read in ages. It combines a story that is highly readable with an enormous amount of food for thought. I could probably go on for quite a while on all the influences, history and philosophy that went into it. I haven't even discussed the importance of art for instance. Or the debates on what constitutes intelligence. Or the ever present question of how much of Socrates' teachings is Plato putting words into his mouth. It's quite cl...The ...more
Sep 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
In Jo Walton’s newest novel The Just City, the goddess Pallas Athena uses her divine powers to create an approximation of Plato’s Republic. As in, she literally sets up a mini-version of the ideal state as described in The Republic, transferring over 10,000 children and a few hundred adults to a Mediterranean island in the past, giving them The Republic as a general operating manual (as well as some handy robots from the future) and basically directing them to set up the Just City, where every s ...more
Jamie Collins
I really enjoyed this, even though I know almost nothing about Plato’s Republic and I didn’t recognize any of the historical figures except the obvious ones, Cicero and Socrates. Only once - with Ikaros - was I annoyed by hints that were meaningless to me.

It’s about an experiment carried out by the goddess Athena: she creates a Just City, as described in Plato’s thought experiment. It’s run by a small group of adults assembled from various times and places throughout history (includi
Nov 21, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

Publisher: Tor Books

Publishing Date: January 2015

ISBN: 9780765332660

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 2.8/5

Publisher Description: 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 distan
Tasha Robinson
Sep 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I have no particular interest in Plato's Republic, but I loved this novel (the first in a series; just picked up the second one yesterday) about the goddess Athena bringing philosophers and seekers together from throughout time to actually build a planned community based on Plato's work. It's openly about gender, and the life of the mind, and the unfairness of politics, and the importance of consent, and then about bigger questions, like the nature of the gods and the degree to which people can be truste ...more
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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 (Thessaly, #2)
  • Necessity (Thessaly, #3)
“Know Thyself. It’s good advice. Know yourself. You are worth knowing. Examine your life. The unexamined life is not worth living. Be aware that other people have equal significance. Give them the space to make their own choices, and let their choices count as you want them to let your choices count. Remember that excellence has no stopping point and keep on pursuing it. Make art that can last and that says something nobody else can say. Live the best life you can, and become the best self you can. You cannot know which of your actions is the lever that will move worlds. Not even Necessity knows all ends. Know yourself.” 30 likes
“There isn't an end point to excellence where you have it and you can stop. Being your best self means keeping on trying.” 7 likes
More quotes…