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The Just City

Thessaly, Book 1
By: Jo Walton
Narrated by: Noah Michael Levine
Series: Thessaly, Book 1
Length: 11 hrs and 9 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"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 10,000 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 AD 500 and AD 1000, 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 gray-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.

©2014 Jo Walton (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A good effort

I was interested in reading this book to see an interpretation of Plato's Republic. I thought it would be good to see how someone would write about it having studied it and thought through the meaning. I wasn't disappointed, but certainly didn't agree with some aspects. eg. Suggesting that Plato 'got it wrong' and putting that into the mouth of Socrates; treating the gods as human - a bit on the edge there; and emphasis on 'rhetoric' when I'm sure that Socrates would never teach or engage in 'rhetoric'. He was a dialectician through and through. Any rhetoric he practised would be just by the way. I guess you could call his Apology 'rhetoric', but it was dialectic that we look to learn from him. I'm thinking about reading the other two in the trilogy. For the same reason I read this one - what will the author do with it?

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  • Martha K.
  • 22-04-2017

Could Not Get Past Mispronunciations

I am a huge fan of Jo Walton, and have every book of hers on Audible except those in this series, so I was excited to find this book on a sale. However after multiple attempts I have only managed to get about half way through this book, and will probably return it. Like most Jo Walton books it has plenty of interesting ideas to get across and well developed characters. Just City does not have a strong plot, which is also characteristic of Jo Walton's writing style. Her ideas, and characters are what draw you into her worlds.

What killed this book for me was that the narrator did not know how to pronounce Athene, who is a main character that gets mentioned about once every ten minutes. Instead of pronouncing the last syllable like a na (as anyone who has taken so much as a middle school level class on Greek mythology would know to do) he says nee. Every time this happened it pushed me out of the story, and I just could not get past it. There were also a few other words like supplicant, and Catullus that the narrator also mispronounced.

If the mispronunciations are something you can get past I would recommend this book to you. Jo Walton is a great author and her stories always give you plenty to think about, and have great re-readability. If you can not get past this give the audible version a pass. If you are not sure if you can get past the mispronunciations you probably can't. They are constant, and even if it only irritates you a little at first, believe me, that irritation will grow.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Chris
  • 05-03-2020

A good listen and food for the mind

Here we have numerous philosophical ideals and arguments expertly adorned in an interesting story and personable characters. The primary story asks the question, what if the Greek gods are real and what would happen if two in particular decided to implement Plato’s Just City with a little over 10,000 human beings from throughout history (nearly all children around 10 years). Set in the time before the Trojan war, we get to follow the development of this real world thought experiment, all the while secretly knowing the god Apollo has decided to become one of these children and discover what it means to live a human life. The introduction of Socrates in the city later on the book especially serves to deliver an interesting story. The only drawback to the audio version of this book is the narrator only has two voices, one male and one female, that makes it very confusing to know who is speaking and which characters we are following. Despite this,I’ll be giving book 2 a try as the story is compelling.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-07-2018

compelling, provocative and thoughtful..

interesting characters and characterizations. not a dystopia, but an effort at utopia with both the philososophy and reality presented for debate and actually debated.

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  • Barryberger
  • 25-05-2018

Hard to listen to

Feels like I’m listening to a boring lecture in college. Story line is about creating a utopian society but it’s just unlistenable. Maybe if there was a female narrator I could make it through, but hearing a male try to pretend to be so many female characters in book is not a good idea, especially when I feel he can’t do better than a soft spoken male, let alone a female. Wish I could just have my credit back to get another book.

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  • Janet Goodyear
  • 27-02-2017

Interesting idea, but not compelling

I liked the tale, but often got a little tired of the dialogue. I understand this is a beginning to a series or set, but even though it seems like the story will continue, I probably won't get the next one, at least not right away.

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  • Hector hernandez
  • 23-09-2016

The just city

I liked a lot about this book the theory that the story consist around I just felt it could have went another way. The writer spent so much time trying to make it so brilliant I feel it lost some human aspect of reaction to some situations.