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The third volume of Walton’s trilogy, Necessity, was finally published this year, so I reread the first two and then read on. To be fair, I really ought to reread Necessity before I write this …
       Walton continues her run of books that feel important to me. This trilogy is so many things. It is classic ‘what if’ science fiction based on a ridiculous premise. It is a vigorous argument with and feminist critique of Plato. It is a picture of and an argument for the benefits of a culture that pursues excellence rather than money or glory. It’s a love letter to philosophy and philosophers and art, and perhaps (as was her earlier novel, Among Others) also a love letter to science fiction fandom. It is a strong denunciation of ideology (specifically, religious ideology) as a guide to human action. It is probably other things too, but that will do for now.
        I wish I did have time to reread Necessity, because the first two volumes both feel stronger for rereading, and if the third seems weaker by comparison it may just be because it hasn’t benefitted from a reread.
        In The Just City the goddess Athene creates the Just City, trying to follow Plato’s instructions in the Republic. What could possibly go wrong? The tale is told by the god Apollo, by one of the Masters who works to build the city, and one of the Children who is brought to the city to be raised from the age of ten to pursue excellence and live justly. The Philosopher Kings picks up the tale to explore what happens when the Children reach maturity and become the ‘philosopher kings’, inheriting and questioning the goals of the previous generation. Finally, in Necessity, we step both forward to another generation and back to the founders of the city to open the story into a wider frame. All ends in the best tradition of science fiction happy endings: there will be a future for the Just City that inherits its past, but it will not be a future that anyone intended.
        I loved this trilogy. I would love everyone to read it, and argue with it, and write fan fiction set in Walton’s universe, and use it as a springboard to learning about the history of philosophy and art, and change their lives to pursue excellence and try to live justly. I think I live in a culture that does some of these things, some of the time. I can live in hope that we will do more bye-and-bye.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
13th Oct, 2016 14:26 (UTC)
I too thought Necessity the weakest of the three (and The philosopher kings the strongest), but my, what a brilliant trilogy.
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Caroline M

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