The Just City by Jo Walton
A book about volition, equal significance, and excellence. Easily my favorite book I’ve read recently, and a shoe-in for my top books list.
The concept of the book is that the goddess Athene attempts, as an experiment, to create Plato’s Just City according to Plato’s republic. She and Apollo choose to participate in the city. The book is about what happens next.
The internet describes it as a science fiction book, which isn’t wrong, but also isn’t how I would introduce it because I think it over emphasizes specific aspects of the book at the expense of others. Sort of like saying Hamlet is a play about the Danish Monarchy. It’s not wrong but it’s also not exactly right.
I won’t spoil the plot any further, but I will say that I have fallen deeply in love with several of the characters in this book (agape, not eros).
This book gave me the sensation all my favorite books have given me: a relentless need to finish them and a panging sense of loss, knowing that I will never be able to read them for the first time again. For me, if reading is about anything, it’s about finding a book that makes me feel this way again.
I’ll leave you with a quote from the book that reminds me of what I want to remember most from it:
On my temple in Delphi there are two words written: Know Thyself. It’s good advice. Know yourself. You are worth knowing. Examine your life. The unexamined life is not worth living. Be aware that other people have equal significance. Give them space to make their own choices, and let their choices count as you want them to let your choices count. Remember that excellence has no stopping point and keep pursuing it. Make art that can last and that says something nobody else can say. Live the best life you can and become the best self you can. You cannot know which of your actions is the lever that will move worlds. Not even Necessity knows all ends. Know yourself.
Special thanks to Uri for introducing this book to me. I loved this book!