The Just City

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Books -

Bananas re­pub­lic

Re­lease Date: 2 July

368 pages | Pa­per­back Au­thor: Jo Wal­ton Pub­lisher: Cor­sair

Ac­cord­ing to this

book’s Notes, Jo Wal­ton came up with the idea of time trav­ellers at­tempt­ing to set up Plato’s Re­pub­lic when she was 15.

Read­ing the re­sult­ing novel, it ap­pears she hasn’t ac­tu­ally thought much more about the con­cept in the in­ter­ven­ing three decades. The Just City is an in­ter­est­ing idea des­per­ately in search of a plot.

It kicks off in mis­lead­ingly quirky and lively fash­ion, with the god Apollo per­plexed that a nymph would rather trans­form into a tree than ac­cept his ad­vances. To un­der­stand this re­ac­tion he de­cides to spend a life­time incog­nito as a hu­man. Hand­ily, sis­ter Athene is plan­ning to use peo­ple plucked from dif­fer­ent ages to see if they can build Plato’s Re­pub­lic, which seems as good a place as any to be reborn.

So far, so in­trigu­ing. Then… not a lot hap­pens. Var­i­ous near- in­ter­change­able char­ac­ters who all speak in the same tone dis­cuss phi­los­o­phy and moral­ity. A lot. There’s barely any­thing ap­proach­ing real drama, apart from a bit of sex­ual ten­sion, and a sub­plot about whether ro­bot work­ers are sen­tient is largely wasted. There’s no sense of build­ing to a cli­max, just a fi­nal chap­ter where ev­ery­thing sud­denly falls apart, and a fin­ger- wag­ging “les­son” like some­thing from the end of an old US chil­dren’s TV show.

You’ll learn a lot about Plato – the word “agape” is used pos­si­bly more than “the” – but like Athene’s plan, The Just City is a failed ex­er­cise. Dave Golder The char­ac­ter of Maia ( a Vic­to­rian) is based on Ethel May in Char­lotte M Yonge’s 1856 novel The Daisy Chain.

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