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The Just City [Format Kindle]

Jo Walton

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Présentation de l'éditeur

"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--all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.

The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer's daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge, ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome--and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her.

Meanwhile, Apollo--stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does--has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of the children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human.

Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives--the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself--to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect. What happens next is a tale only the brilliant Jo Walton could tell.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1073 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 369 pages
  • Editeur : Tor Books (13 janvier 2015)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00L73GT72
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Composition améliorée: Activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°264.595 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Amazon.com: 4.0 étoiles sur 5  50 commentaires
17 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A fantastic novel for those who love to ask, "What if?" 13 janvier 2015
Par Bibliotropic .net - Publié sur Amazon.com
The premise of The Just City is that the goddess Athene, for whatever reason, has decided to see if Plato’s idea will really work, or at least to discover how well it will work. Apollo, puzzled over why someone would rather die than sleep with him, decides to enter the world of humanity and be part of Athene’s experiment, being born into a mortal body though keeping his divine knowledge and memory so that he is fully aware of the implications of his actions and of the experiment. The masters running the Just City, as it’s known, are scholars and philosophers plucked from all over the timeline, people who would not be missed for various reasons (unappreciated women, those sentenced to die, etc) rescued from unfortunate circumstance and placed in a position where they make use of their love of knowledge and learning. Those locked in the experiment are the children, bought from slavers and rescued and given homes in the Just City, cared for and given educations so long as they’re willing to follow the meritocratic city’s laws. To keep masters and children from wasting time in menial labour, robots from the future are also brought in, to do tasks like cleaning and cooking and general upkeep.

But as with any idea of a utopia, things do not exactly go as planned. Most of the children were happy and grateful to have been rescued from slavery and are glad to adopt the City’s ways, but some are bitter and resentful, and not at all willing to go along with the plan. There is friction between some of the masters, differences of opinion and interpretation on how the City should be run, and the situation forces them to deal with things Plato never laid down rules for because, well, let’s face it, Plato’s Republic didn’t originally involve robot servants or the intervention of a deity. Then the robots start to show signs of emerging sentience…

Jo Walton has this amazing talent for writing a story in which there is little to no action but so much intrigue. She can make mundane life seem interesting, she can make pages upon pages of dialogue discussing the hypotheticals of a situation seem like the most engaging thing ever. I suspect that I could read an entire book of her describing what she did yesterday and I wouldn’t get bored, because she’d include dozens of insightful observations and speculative thoughts and witty commentary. She’s a wonderful writer and manages to put such life into this story, such diversity of opinion and character that it all feels very real. The Socratic debates alone, asking questions until you come to all the answers, could hold my attention for ages, because they’re all about issues that I find myself connecting with.

It’s a fascinating idea behind The Just City. Not a terribly original one, since Walton is building off notions already set down by people in the past. It’s a though experiment about a thought experiment, and a tremendous work of fanfiction. And I say that without any negative connotations on the term, either; fanfiction is, at its purest, the notion of taking someone else’s idea and running with it in new directions, asking “What it?” and seeing where the idea leads. But even within the context of the story itself, interesting questions are being asked. How much should someone break the rules to keep the spirit of a place intact? Is buying children from slavery in order to free them just another way of keeping slavers in business? (A similar modern question could be asked about buying clothes made in sweatshops: if we stop buying those clothes, the sweatshop goes out of business, the workers are out of jobs and don’t make any money at all, so is it a greater evil to buy or not buy?) Will there ever be a society that will satisfy everyone equally? Is it worth a few malcontents in order to improve the lives of the majority? So many questions, and even if none of them get answered definitively (how could they?), Walton touches on them and highlights the issue. There’s a lot of thought-provoking content in here.

Having Apollo incarnate as a mortal also allows for an exploration of humanity, the kind that really can’t properly be written about when you’re already human and that’s all you know. I admit, I’m a sucker for stories involving incarnated deities, and with Walton’s ability to reflect on complex issues in a manner that still entertains and doesn’t beat you about the head with heavy-handed morality, I knew I would, at the very least, enjoy the sections of the book from his perspective. There are some issues you can only see clearly from the outside, and I find this sort of scenario is really good for identifying them. And with consent and equality being major recurring themes, Apollo’s perspective was a good one by which to gain another view on the matters.

I could go on and on about how good a book this is, how intelligent and insightful and entertaining it is, but like many of Walton’s books, any review I give really doesn’t seem to do the experience justice. It’s definitely a book for people who like to explore the “what if”s behind ideas, those who like to follow thoughts to whatever conclusion they end at, those who like to have their preconceptions challenged, and for that, I think very highly of this book. It’s not a book filled with action and fight scenes and high tension, but it’s still a book that keeps you turning the pages to see what develops next. Definitely for fans of Walton’s earlier works, and for speculative fans looking for something that’s different and thought-provoking.
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Engaging novel of ideas that critiques what makes for a just society 17 janvier 2015
Par Timothy J. Bartik - Publié sur Amazon.com
Jo Walton's "The Just City" is likely to be regarded as one of the best science fiction/fantasy novels published in the last 10 years. "The Just City" is an engaging novel of ideas about what makes for a just society. The book both creates its own utopia, a version of Plato's Republic, and critiques that utopia's deficiencies. The reader is challenged to quarrel with the book's premises and development, which forces the reader to think and develop his or her own ideas about justice.

The book obviously appeals to anyone who loves both classical philosophy and science fiction, although that is perhaps a limited group. However, Ms. Walton does an excellent job of making the book clear and attractive to a broader audience by focusing in on two engaging female lead characters, one who arrived in this imaginary Republic as an adult, from 19th century England, and the other who arrived in the book's "just city" as an 11-year slave girl from ancient times. She makes the abstractions of Plato's Republic concrete by asking very relevant questions about whether Plato's proposed abolition of the family, as leading to favortism, would really work, and by asking whether the class structure of Plato's Republic is really fair to those on the very bottom even if decided on by rulers who are really aiming for justice. She asks these questions and explores the answers by specific concrete examples that unfold as the plot develops. Philosophy becomes real in the day to day life of these individual female characters who one comes to care about.

The book has a particular strength in pointing out the common injustices against women in most historical societies. This Plato made a serious attempt to avoid in his "just city" by allowing women to attain all roles, including the roles of philosopher and ruler, and Ms. Walton shows this in her plot by showing how the just city affects the life chances and thinking of her lead female characters.

The book is apparently the first book in a trilogy. However, the book is a complete novel in and of itself, with an ending that I found satisfactory. The book is formally a "fantasy", in that it involves time travel and the Goddess Athena as arranging for this imaginary attempt to create Plato's Republic. However, it is told very realistically as a science fiction book, and everything proceeds realistically once one accepts the initial premises.

I would compare the novel to Ursula K. LeGuin's "The Dispossessed", Robert Heinlein's "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress", and Iain Banks's "The Player of Games". These novels are all comparable because they are science fiction novels that extensively explore how societies are constructed, and what arrangements make for a more just society. In my opinion, "The Just City" is better than Heinlin's book or Banks's book because it not only defends and outlines its version of utopia, but also effectively critiques that utopia, which Heinlein never does and Banks only does in part. It is comparable in quality with LeGuin's book, which often has been suggestively subtitled "An Ambiguous Utopia" because LeGuin sees clearly the many problems with her ideal society. It is more engaging to the reader when the author critiques his or her own utopia. It opens up the dialogue over what would make for a more just society.
20 internautes sur 24 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
2.0 étoiles sur 5 Half baked. 11 février 2015
Par DL - Publié sur Amazon.com
This novel fails on multiple fronts. Philosophically it is on a high school level, if that. None of the topics covered, free will, agency, the soul, utilitarianism v. Deonotology, are explored with enough depth to be either interesting or challenging. Instead, it is as though Walton purposely chose to present variations of the most facile arguments.

For example, are there any serious challenges to the belief that force/coercion should not be used to rape? Yet, Walton returns to this topic again and again. The only minor nuance she brings to the topic is the suggestion that we can have sex we do not want nor enjoy that nonetheless does not qualify as rape. This suggestion is presented in multiple plot lines by characters deciding they are "willing" despite the act being repugnant to them. There is little exploration of why they are willing other than that the "Just City" demands it.

This novel also fails when it comes to characters. It is structured with point of view chapters for each of the main characters, Simmea, Maia and Pytheas. Problem is, none of them are particularly interesting. They read flat as if Walton needed certain perspectives and wrote characters to meet those requirements, rather than let them grow organically. Consequently, I had no sympathy towards any of them. I found myself hoping that other characters such as Sokrates, Kebes or even Crocus would enter a scene and bring some life.

I have a high tolerance with books considered to have no plot. Excellent writing, perceptive insights and internal conflict can make a "slow" book riveting in my estimation. Here, there is a plot, but everything else is missing. Characters move from point A to point B striving for excellence. They are all "Golds". They are all "philosophers". How boring when there is so little to their philosophy.

What conflict does exist runs around unrequited Eros which is ultimately resolved by having the beloved decide love means overcoming lack of physical attraction and having sex with someone you're not sexually attracted to. Really??

This brings me to my last point. The plot is structured around bringing together people of various ages, ethnicities, races and historical eras. Yet they're all happy to eat some variation of Greek/Mediterranean or Italian cuisine? No one is lactose intolerant? No one thinks, 'What the hell is this? This is not what I want to eat.' No one thinks, ' These kitons are dumb and I want to wear what I'm used to'? These may be minor points but they speak to the book's papering over real differences and failure to create 'real,' idiosyncratic characters with individual tastes and desires.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Very thought provoking and insightful book that makes you question the way things are in the world 14 janvier 2015
Par TenaciousReader - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
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 want to be their best selves and strive to do right by the city. If everyone lives by this code, then the city should thrive.

Since the masters had all prayed to Athena specifically to join this city, there was not an equal representation of people through out all of time. And there was a greater percentage of men from periods of time where women held less status. And not much representation from the modern age, as Athena is not generally a goddess of choice any more. It is interesting to watch the women masters in this and how they handle being given such responsibility and being valued for their intellect and desire to learn, something rarely seen in their prior lives. But also having to deal with some of the male masters from a much older time period that were not quite as open to equality of the genders. This makes for an interesting dynamic.

Sokrates makes an appearance, though years after the children have been brought there. He is not quite a master, but is definitely not a child. But the questions and insights he brings to the City, while may seem almost silly at times, are absolutely critical.

The book also examines the nature of thinking beings and question what constitutes a person. There are issues of choice. And with a society of so much structure, you can’t help but notice there are some fundamental choices that are taken away. Can a society be “just” when it’s citizen’s lack the freedom to choose? Just a small sampling of the philosophical questions you can’t help but examine while reading.

This was my first book by Jo Walton, but it certainly won’t be my last. This was a very powerful and addictive book. Usually books that I have a hard time putting down are often faster paced, but while this was not “action-packed”, it was fully absorbing. Highly recommend.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Know Thyself 20 janvier 2015
Par ATG Reviews - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
(An advanced copy was provided by the publisher).

The Just City is the first book in a new philosophical fantasy trilogy by Jo Walton. I had never read anything by Jo Walton when I received my advance copy of this book, but I had heard a lot of glowing praise. So I’m about to jump on that bandwagon, because this book is one of the best new books I’ve read in awhile. With a great concept, entertaining multidimensional characters, and a nod to one of philosophy’s most important works, Walton tells an utterly compelling and thought provoking story.

The Greek Goddess Athene decides to create the Just City, a real life city that adheres to all of the ideals mentioned in Plato’s Republic. She gathers children from the age of ten who were sold into slavery and devout readers of Plato to teach them throughout all eras of time and brings them to a secluded island in the past to carry out this experiment. Will Athene be able to create a truly just or balanced city where everyone strives to be their best selves?

The Just City has three narrators that examine the various roles mortals and immortals play in Walton’s social experiment. There is ten year old Simmea who is growing up in Ancient Egypt. She is enslaved after her entire family is murdered, and is brought to the Just City as part of the first generation of students that are there to learn how to be their best selves. Maia is an English woman from the Victorian era. She is brought to the Just City to become a Master, where she helps design the Just City to make sure it adheres to Plato’s ideals and to teach the children art. The final narrator is the God Apollo. Realizing that there are things that mortals understand that he doesn’t, Apollo agrees to sacrifice his God powers for a mortal body and a place in Athene’s experiment.

There is very little action, but when there is it’s jarring as Walton springs violence and rape on readers very abruptly and very graphically. These scenes support a larger idea that’s explored throughout the novel: woman’s unequal treatment throughout history. Yes even a city that tries to achieve equality still features a number of sexist males. Intrigue is what largely carries this story along with a myriad of “what happens when” and “what is” types of questions:

What happens when you bring people from all throughout history to live together in one city?

What happens when you recreate Plato’s Republic?

What happens when Gods live amongst mortals?

What is freedom?

What is equality?

What is the soul?

On and on it goes, after all this is predominantly a philosophical novel, but that just starts to scratch the surface. The questioning intensifies once Sokrates is brought to the Just City to teach rhetoric. Being every bit the rambunctious intellectual you’d expect him to be, he begins to question everything about how the Just City is run. This gets really interesting once Sokrates starts to question the robot workers that were brought to the city from the future and are essential to keeping everything running.

Needless to say it’s very difficult to keep someone reading when there is very little action, yet Jo Walton not only manages to do this but she’s created a page turner that never compromises the integrity of its ideas or the prose used to tell it. If you’re someone who enjoys philosophy, Greek mythology, or have read The Republic then you should definitely consider picking up this book.
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