Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Starred Review. A host of men and women who prayed to the goddess Athena are transported to the island of Kallisti (better known as Atlantis) to create a society based on the writings of Plato, specifically his concept of the Just City from The Republic. Intrigued by the experiment, Apollo, Athena's brother, agrees to participate, allowing himself to be reborn as a mortal to grow up in Athena's city. The older residents who prayed to be there serve as masters, mentors to the 10,000-plus children whom they steal out of time to populate the city, hoping those exposed early enough to Plato's ideal society will grow up to become philosopher kings. The reality is more complicated, as utopian ideals rarely play out as expected on actual human beings. VERDICT As skilled in execution as it is fascinating in premise, Walton's new work (after 2013's My Real Children) doesn't require a degree in classics, although readers might well be inspired to read Plato after seeing the rocky destruction of his dream. Although rich with philosophical discussions, what keeps this novel from becoming too chilly or analytical are its sympathetic female characters. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Hugo-winner Walton (My Real Children) explores the temptations and pitfalls of utopia in a genre-bending thought experiment: what if the Greek gods recreated Plato's Republic with human time travelers? Centuries before the Trojan War, on the volcanic island of Thera, the goddess Athene presides over the Just City, where her devotees from throughout history strive to raise a generation of philosopher-kings. When Sokrates of Athens arrives, as ever a thorn in the side of the establishment, the consequences are far-reaching and explosive. Perspectives alternate among the passionately intellectual Egyptian-born Simmea; the formerly Victorian Maia, one of the city's first "masters"; and the reincarnated god Apollo, who's on a quest to learn about "equal significance and volition." Walton expertly observes the cracks between Platonic ideal and messy reality, but she relies heavily and uncomfortably on sexual violence and its aftermath as vehicles for exploring concepts of consent and free will. Her reductive depiction of the gods-particularly callous, unkind Athene, who's set up as a straw man for Sokrates to knock down-and an unresolved, abrupt ending prevent this impressively ambitious novel from becoming its own best self. Agent: Jack Byrne, Sternig & Byrne Literary Agency. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal Review
The Goddess Athene has an idea that seems foolproof: What if she could create a real-life version of Plato's Republic by bringing together all of those throughout history who have ever prayed to her and have them build and govern the Just City? Her brother Apollo is not so certain of the possible outcome but is intrigued enough by the idea-and worried enough by a recent romantic rejection by a human-to turn himself into a human and take part in the experiment. And so Walton's novel follows the creation of this city, as told by three narrators at three different levels of the society: an Egyptian slave bought by the Republic to be one of the children who will be taught and trained to become a philosopher king; a young woman from Victorian England who will be one of the first set of teachers of the young children; and Apollo himself, in his guise as one of the children. From these three perspectives, readers see the various successes and failures of the Republic and the eventual crisis that comes from the central question of what it means to be truly just. No knowledge of Plato's Republic is necessary to follow this powerful work, and teens who enjoy dystopian novels should be particularly interested in Walton's account of how a dystopia forms: by beginning as a utopia. VERDICT A fast-moving yet thought-provoking novel.-Mark Flowers, Rio Vista Library, CA © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Together with 300 scholars from 25 centuries, the goddess Athene sets out to establish Plato's Republic and build the Just City on the backwater island of Kallisti, known to later generations as Atlantis. To populate it, she imports 10,080 10-year-olds, among them the slave girl Simmea and her friend and ultimate bête noire, Kebes. Another of the children is Pytheas, who is secretly the god Apollo in human form. Simmea and Apollo serve as two of the story's three narrators; the third is a young woman, Maia, who comes from mid-Victorian England. The children's raison d'être is to pursue excellence, to become their best selves and ultimately if all goes well Plato's philosopher kings. Providing food and doing the work necessary to maintaining the island's life is the role of robots imported from the distant future who serve as de facto slaves, a not insignificant point. Five years into the experiment, Socrates is brought to the island against his will to teach the children (now teenagers) rhetoric, and that's when things get . . . interesting. The award-winning Walton has written a remarkable novel of ideas that demands and repays careful reading. It is itself an exercise in philosophy that often, courtesy of Socrates, critically examines Plato's ideas. If this sounds abstruse, it sometimes is, but the plot is always accessible and the world building and characterization are superb. In the end, the novel more than does justice to the idea of the Just City.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
What happens when the goddess Athene tries to establish Plato's Republic on Atlantis, populated with a few hundred philosophers plucked from 2,500 years of history, more than 10,000 manumitted slave children and a handful of robot workers? For some reason, Plato is not invited, but Socrates is welcome, as are a number of Plato's translators and devotees, including Plotinus and Cicero. The adults, known as "masters," are generally happy to build the Just City, but not all the children are, especially since it's strongly implied that the masters encouraged the growth of slavery in various eras by purchasing so many children. And although the children are well-treated and educated, they're not allowed to leave and must follow strict rules whose provenance they can't entirely understand, since they're not even allowed to read The Republic. The justness of the City becomes even more questionable when evidence accumulates that the mechanical workers used in place of slaves may actually be sentient. There's more thought experiment than plot here. The fictional and mythological protagonists have a certain appeal, but it's disappointing that Walton (Among Others, 2011, etc.) barely sketches most of the historical characters who play minor roles in the storyreaders will have to do the research themselves in order to flesh them out. This is novel as study guide: Mary Renault meets undergraduate Philosophy 101. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.