The Just City by Jo Walton

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The Just City by Jo Walton

Category: Dystopian Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: An intriguing concept that is cleverly realised, and one that will thankfully be expanded upon in future sequels. Jo Walton has produced a novel full of ideas both old and new, entwined in unexpected and surprising ways, combining science fiction, fantasy and philosophy.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: July 2015
Publisher: Corsair
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1472150769

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Urged on by her brother Apollo, goddess Pallas Athene founds the Just City of Atlantis – a city based on Plato’s republic. Filling it with an assortments of adults collected from throughout time, as well as ten thousand ten year olds, (one of whom is a disguised Apollo). Whilst the city flourishes, the arrival of Socrates may prove to be a fly in the ointment…

From the summary above, you’ve probably surmised that The Just City is a mash of concepts – Greek mythology, time travel, philosophers etc. Even robots appear, becoming a focal point later in the book. It’s an ambitious idea, and one that, for the most part, Jo Walton easily pulls off. A well-established author, Walton is known for novels that blur lines between genres – a dragon novel in the style of Anthony Trollope and an alternate history science fiction novel amongst others. The Just City is possibly the most ambitious of her works though, and the blend of concepts mean that this novel takes some getting used to.

The characterisation is certainly strong though – Athene and Apollo are sympathetic and amusing leads, and they are modernised well, existing as beings outside of time all together, but nonetheless portraying the flawed sense of humanity that makes the Greek pantheon so intriguing. They are joined by a medley of characters plucked from varying periods in time – all of whom who were at one point enamoured with Plato’s ideals, and plucked to live in the Just City just as they wished to join. The interactions are well written – and whilst several shocking events drive the book along, there is a distinct lack of plot and an ending that lacks any real conclusion. Thankfully, this is the first part in a trilogy – and given Jo Walton’s previous works, I have no doubt that this will form part of an intelligent and compelling overarching story.

A fascinating book that I would recommend to those intrigued by Greek mythology, philosophy or science fiction, The Just City stands on its own as a remarkably clever collection of ideas. I only hope that the future books in the trilogy provide a structured plot in order to bind and convey the fantastic ideas in a more readable fashion.

Many thanks to the publishers for the copy, and for further reading I would recommend What Makes This Book So Great: Re-Reading The Classics Of Science Fiction And Fantasy by Jo Walton, in which the author picks her favourite books from the fields of both Science Fiction and Fantasy, and provides a passionate and detailed commentary as to why these books are so fantastic. Much like I would recommend Jo Walton’s novels to a wide range of people, What Makes This Book So Great is a great book for anyone with a passing interest in science fiction and fantasy, and is also a great read for those intrigued by the ideas, but unsure of where to get started.

Buy The Just City by Jo Walton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Just City by Jo Walton at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Just City by Jo Walton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Just City by Jo Walton at Amazon.com.


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