The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton

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The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton

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Category: Science Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: The sequel to The Just City, The Philosopher Kings takes the complicated ideas of its predecessor, and builds on them skilfully. Whilst not a read that gripped me, the philosophical ideas debated here make this book far cleverer than first glances may suggest
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: January 2016
Publisher: Corsair
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1472150790

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Twenty years have passed since the Goddess Athene founded the Just City. The god Apollo is still living there, albeit in human form. Now married, and the father of several children, the man/god struggles to cope when tragedy befalls his family. Beset by grief and a need for revenge, Apollo sets sail to find the man who caused him such pain, but discovers something that may change everything…

So, to summarise the concept of the previous book (which you really need to have read before picking this up), the Greek Gods exist – although out of time, meaning they can dip in and out of our history as and when they choose. Athene decides she wants to create an island, in order to test Plato's idea of a republic (an ideal community ruled by Philosophers). She takes people from various periods in time in order to fill the islands, as well as various philosophical figures, and her brother Apollo decides to stay on the island as a human, in order to learn and grow. Various issues occur, lots of things are debated, and there are robots. Alright?

It's an odd mix – and it takes a while to get used to it. In fact, I think I still may not be used to it, despite being on the second book – I never seem able to fully engage. I certainly don't hate it – there are excellent ideas here, and some great characters, and the plot certainly picks up pace – In fact the book opens with one of the main characters from the previous book dying, and this book continues in a fascinating manner – with Apollo leaving the island and discovering several other civilisations around them.

Very interesting philosophical questions are raised – about the nature of the human soul, the issues regarding time travel, mortality versus deity... It's a hugely clever book – blending philosophy with elements of science fiction, fantasy, and greek legend. I'm not entirely sure why I don't love it – It's certainly well written, and Jo Walton is certainly hugely knowledgeable about her philosophy. I am looking forward to the third in the series though – and I may well get more enjoyment out of reading all three books as a whole. In addition, I think these books work well to introduce readers to philosophical ideas, and to get them more interested in the subject – I imagine they'd work rather well in Sixth Form Philosophy lessons, in place of the insipid Sophie's World by Jostein Gardeer, although my hate for that book may well be a side effect of my dislike for my Philosophy teacher… Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.

For further reading I'm recommending a look at just how insanely knowledgeable Jo Walton is – in What Makes This Book So Great: Re-Reading The Classics Of Science Fiction And Fantasy she talkes about fantasy and science fiction with the all the knowledge of a very eccentric Professor – and it's a great place to start for those wishing to dip their literary toes into the huge fields of Fantasy or Science Fiction.

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


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

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