Friday, May 15, 2015

The Just City by Jo Walton (2015)

I hate to admit this, but I'm not a rabid fanboy of anything.  I won't camp out in the rain waiting in line to get tickets for anything.  I'm not at any conventions, dressed as a character.  The closest I've ever come to being a fanboy - I tried to learn Elvish in high school (28 years ago or so).  I attended two Harry Potter midnight sales events, dressed up (I won one of them).  I waited in line and saw all three Lord of the Rings movies on opening night (I was not dressed up).  I once peed next to Neil Gaiman; I didn't take a peek, although I was giddy.  I consider this a highlight of my life, by the way.  None of this, in my opinion, constitutes Fanboy-dom.

That doesn't mean I'm not madly in love with the works of various authors, the Top 10 if you will.  

The Top 10 is purely a figurative term, by the way.  It's probably somewhere between 5 and 30.  And always in flux.

Jo Walton is definitely in that top 10.  I love her writing.  I love her plots and characters.  I love the way her mind works. I love how each and every one of her books is different but interesting and often wonderful.  If I were a writer of some sort, a novelist, I think if I were half as good as she, I would be a damn good writer.  I am always trying to booktalk her books to readers.  Sometimes, I succeed.  When I do, I'm in heaven.

So to her most recent book, The Just City.  It's not one of my favorites.  

It's good.  It's interesting. I read on.  I wanted to finish it.  But it took a while.  A long while.  Over half way through, I finally fell into it.  At least half way. 

I think perhaps it would have helped me if I'd taken a Philosophy class or studied the works of Plato, as the plot basically hinges on that.

It's very old school science fiction; I was reminded of other things I'd read in the past (the historical characters brought together, for example, was a shade of Riverworld).  I know Jo Walton's affinity for science fiction from all ages, Golden Age and otherwise, so I think perhaps that was on purpose.

At some point, I also thought the star ship Enterprise is going to appear; Beverly Crusher and company are going to beam down, and some Star Trek-iness will ensue.  That would have completely ruined the book.

This book may be more clever than I am capable of being.  That happens a lot.  That said, I still thought it was a good book.  Didactic a bit, but that's the taste of old science fiction.  Strong and interesting.   It's still a new Jo Walton, and that made me happy.

The Just CityThe Just City by Jo Walton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can't imagine being disappointed by a Jo Walton book ever, and while this isn't my favorite book she's ever written, I did still like it, found it to be both strong and interesting. Having some foreknowledge about Plato would have helped; I had to infer quite a bit.  I was reminded of old science fiction, from the Golden Age, science fiction that used character and plot to have a dialogue with the reader, slow, languorous science fiction in which nothing happened because everything was happening behind the scenes and between the words and in your head.  It's not the kind of science fiction that's published much anymore - and it's something Jo Walton is quite good at.  I also half expected the star ship Enterprise to come swooping out the sky and an away team to beam down and make merry Star Trek-iness with Athene and company; that would have completely ruined the book.

Oh yeah the ending - talk about deus ex machina being turned on its head.  That was clever - Waltonian?


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