The Just City | Jo Walton

I picked up this novel mainly because I found the inclusion of time travel and Greek gods quite fascinating but wasn’t quite sure how much I would enjoy the philosophy and art discussion. I think the most I’ve ever really thought about philosophy was when thinking of Thomas More’s Utopia and whether an Utopian society was possible.

The Just City expands on this idea. It is a novel about the Goddess Athene and an experiment to create philosopher kings through taking people from all points of time to a place, say Atlantis, to study philosophy and create a ‘just’ city. The creation of this city and how it is governed is based off Plato’s Republic. Coming into a book like this, I had only ever heard of Plato and had never really read about his ideas or the books he had written. So let’s say I was like the ten year olds who were brought to this city in this book, with open eyes and a willingness to learn.

Apart from the philosophy, the novel examines the lives of three different people. Maia, who was once a Victorian lady, now a Master of this city. Simmea, one of the children brought to the city who was once an Egyptian slave. And the god Apollo, who has decided to incarnate as a ten year old boy so he can understand volition.

I loved each of these character dearly, they all had their different ideas and perspectives on the evolution of the city and it was interesting and clever. Although I’ll have to say my favorite character is Socrates, yes that Socrates, a super, friendly person who absolutely loves debate and challenging ideas.

The book discusses many things: justice, types of love, souls, freedom and so much more. And if a book can have a climax with a debate between Socrates and the goddess Athene – and it being insanely awesome, I cannot help but love it.

And there is a sequel to this – I think I know what I’ll be reading in the near future…

I give this novel 5/5*