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January 13, 2015

On sale today: Jo Walton’s The Just City, Book One of Thessaly
Posted by Patrick at 05:20 AM * 47 comments

TheJustCity_final.jpg On sale today in hardcover and ebook in North America, on January 15 February 28 in ebook in the UK and associated markets, and in print in the UK &c. in July.

Excerpt here. Author’s post about it (with FAQ!) on her own site, here.

From the author’s essay for the Tor-Forge newsletter/blog:

“One of the odd things about explaining what The Just City is about is people’s reactions. The Just City is a fantasy novel about a group of classicists and philosophers from across all of time setting up Plato’s Republic on Atlantis, with the help of some Greek gods, ten thousand Greek-speaking ten-year-olds they bought in the slave markets of antiquity, and some construction robots from our near future. What could possibly go wrong?

“Now I get two different immediate reactions to this. The first is from people who say ‘That’s insane, and I want it now!’ The second is from people who say they know nothing about Plato or philosophy in a kind of apologetic way, as if anything that touches on these subjects in any way would require background reading and be kind of boring….What I’ve written in The Just City is a utopia. No, a dystopia. No, wait, no…no, it’s not an ambiguous heterotopia either. But it’s about a designed society, and about human nature, and consent, and questioning. It’s about two women (and one god) growing up.”

Some reviews

“A remarkable novel of ideas…Superb. In the end, the novel does more than justice to the idea of the Just City.”
Booklist (starred review)

“As skilled in execution as it is fascinating in premise, The Just City doesn’t require a degree in classics…Although rich with philosophical discussions, what keeps this novel from becoming too chilly or analytical are its sympathetic female characters.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Walton shines, as she always does, in the small and hurtful and glorious business of interpersonal relationships. Some of her children are forever scarred by slavery, others are lifted from it. Some find Plato’s teachings and philosophy to be a powerful force for happiness and satisfaction, others fare less well. The others around them—including, eventually, both Socrates and Apollo (who has incarnated himself as a mortal child)—reflect back their philosophical and human development, and show us the incredible beauty and the cruelty of utopian projects….Nobody writes like Walton. The Just City manages to both sympathize with social engineering at the same time as it demolishes paternalistic solutions to human problems. In so doing, this book about philosophy, history, gender and freedom also manages to be a spectacular coming-of-age tale that encompasses everything from courtroom dramas to sexual intrigue.”
—Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing

“A brilliant and haunting meditation on utopia, power, and consent—with deeply engaging characters and consummately clever worldbuilding. Jo Walton has given us another winner.”
—Susan Palwick

The Just City will be followed by Book Two of Thessaly, The Philosopher Kings, slated for June 2015, and Book Three, Necessity, currently being written, tentatively scheduled for mid-2016. Follow Jo Walton’s blog for updates.

Comments on On sale today: Jo Walton's The Just City, Book One of Thessaly:
#1 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 08:29 AM:

Oh, good! I've been looking forward to this since I heard Jo read a bit last year.

#2 ::: Sherwood Smith ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 08:31 AM:


#3 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 08:40 AM:

And look at that great cover!

#4 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 10:31 AM:

Whence comes the cover art?

#5 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 10:32 AM:

look at that great cover!

Rafael did good work . . .

#6 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 10:40 AM:

Bill -- it's part of Raphael's "School of Athens" a giant fresco at the Vatican of all the philosophers of the ancient world, as imagined in the Renaissance of course. The whole cover was assembled by the brilliant Jamie Stafford-Hill, and it is my favourite cover for any book of mine ever. They're using a different bit of "School of Athens" for _The Philosopher Kings_.

I specially like that bit because the kids gathered around look mixed gendered to my eye, and also because it's kids gathered around old men, and because they're wearing brightly coloured kitons, all just like in the book -- it really could have been done to illustrate the book. By Raphael. I love it.

#7 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 11:22 AM:

Jo Walton @6, I guess you know you've hit the Big Time when you can get Rafael to do your cover art. <grin, duck, and run>

Congratulations! I eagerly await the release of the e-edition.

#8 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 11:23 AM:

Wellp, yet another Jo Walton book I MUST HAVE as soon as possible!

#9 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 11:36 AM:

Hold it: you time travelled back to the Renaissance and got Raphael to do your cover painting?

#10 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 11:41 AM:

& am I allowed to ask at what point in Marsilio Ficino's life does this... experience... take place, and what effect does it have on him in our history?

And is Ikaros plucked out of our time and sent to Atlante on December 6, 1273?

#11 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 11:44 AM:


I think that we'll need to have a spoiler thread for the book, but maybe wait a day or two so more people can join?

#12 ::: Eric K ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 12:09 PM:

Squeee! How on Earth did I not know about this book? Amazon, I have no idea what you think you're doing with those Kindle rec lists if you can't be bothered to show me this.

I read a few chapters early this morning, and the narrators are fascinating. I would gush some more about each of them, but I'll wait for the spoiler thread.

#13 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 12:12 PM:

That really is a great cover, Jo. (Great cover, excellent story!)

#14 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 12:27 PM:

This is a super book. Even for a Jo Walton book, this is a super book.

And I love the cover.

#15 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 01:04 PM:

Oooh, this sounds amazing. And may I join the chorus of congratulations on the wonderful choice by Jamie Stafford-Hill of cover art.

#16 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 01:53 PM:

So so so wanting this. May have to hit Borderlands this afternoon.

#17 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 02:22 PM:

As it happens, Amazon sent me an advert for 2014 best sellers in fantasy and SF. My initial reaction, maybe unfair, is that this was all Kindle self-published extruded fantasy product.

On the other hand, this is a book I shall be watching for. What's more, it's likely worth a Hugo nomination, when it is eligible.

(The reason I feel my suspicion of extruded fantasy product may be unfair is that I did see signs of real-book publishing in the promoted books, even though I had never heard of the authors, and the outlined plots seems unduly banal. "Best-seller" is a label that only tells you about the rather dreary tastes of the majority of readers.)

Meanwhile, I am getting promotional emails for a public-speaking course. I look back of all the stuff I have done over the decades, going back to the Battle of Waterloo in a school history class, and this also leaves me thinking I am a resident of a different world.

#18 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2015, 06:31 PM:

Dave Bell writes in #17:

As it happens, Amazon sent me an advert for 2014 best sellers in fantasy and SF. My initial reaction, maybe unfair, is that this was all Kindle self-published extruded fantasy product.

As I'm sure Dave realizes, Jo's book is anything but extruded fantasy product. One expects E.F.P. to trot out the same old tropes in the usual ways. From the descriptions in Patrick's posting one can see that this book's premise is a crazy mix of pieces not usually seen together, including some SF tropes, so it would be an atypical fantasy novel even if it were awful (which it is definitely not!).

At this point in Jo's career, we might even say that it is typical for her to write atypical novels.

#19 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2015, 12:45 PM:

Coincidentally, Gail and I recently watched a 3-D movie of the Vatican Museums. That paid a lot of attention to the 'world-famous Raphael Room' and, of course, to the 'School of Athens', which focuses on Plato and his younger disciple Aristotle (I was particularly amused that Raphael chose to portray Michelangelo as Heracleitus).

I am expecting to receive the book on Thursday. I should be very dopey on Friday.

Jo is an author whose work I deeply love, and I am looking forward to this. I am especially looking forward to this because I teach Plato, and I would not want to live in Plato's republic (though I generally annoy my students by saying that I would have voted to execute Socrates).

#20 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2015, 02:38 PM:

I was particularly amused that Raphael chose to portray Michelangelo as Heracleitus

Plato is Leonardo. Euclid (or maybe Archimedes), the bald guy using the compass on the tablet for the edification of his young students, is the architect Bramante.

#21 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2015, 03:21 PM:

Bill Higgins, #18: "At this point in Jo's career, we might even say that it is typical for her to write atypical novels."

A point made at greater length in this kinda-awesome post today on the newly-fledged Barnes and Noble science-fiction blog: The Amazing Jo Walton Has Written a Book for Every Genre Reader.

#22 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2015, 04:26 PM:

Yes, after I read the synopsis above out loud to my family, my son's reaction was "Are all her books like that?"

My answer was, "No, all her books are completely different from each other. There's the nineteenth-century novel of manners where everybody is a dragon. Then there's the novel about being a teenager and what happens after you've saved the world through magic but been crippled in the process, which is also about what it feels like to be an outsider and the consolations of science fiction and fantasy..."

#23 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2015, 04:37 PM:

Every genre reader? She hasn't really covered the Marryat/Forester/O'Brian sea story yet, but I'm looking forward to the day . . .

#24 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2015, 04:53 PM:

What can I say? I get bored writing the same kind of book. It's not any particular virtue, and it's not really a good way to build a career, because people like to know what they're getting -- I'm very lucky Patrick likes my writing, no matter what it's about or what style it's in. But all it is, is that I can only write the books I can write. I try to write the other kind, but it doesn't work, by definition.

So my books are different. And now I am thinking of all the zillions and zillions of sub-genres I've never written anything in. Well, there's time yet.

Rea -- It's not that, but I do two Patrick O'Brian things in The Philosopher Kings. One of them is a voyage around the Aegean in a sailing ship.

#25 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2015, 08:02 PM:

Jo #24: You need to explain, with Nietzsche, Warum ich so gute Bücher schreibe ('Why I write such wonderful books').

#26 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2015, 09:53 PM:

Jo, may you long continue to find it too boring to write the same kind of book!

#27 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2015, 04:03 AM:

According to Amazon in the UK, the ebook date is 22nd January. And they are really confusing about the dates for the print editions of this and The Philosopher Kings. I am not sure if the UK and US print editions have different publication dates or not.

In the pre-Kindle era, Amazon used to be pretty good at predicting the books I liked. so much so that I began to think they had a camera scanning my bookshelves. All that's gone. Maybe I download different books for my Kindle reader, but the Amazon system has gone down the way of mistaking crass popularity of ultra-cheap ebooks as a marker of quality.

While we may all wonder at times at the nomination lists for the main SF awards, such as the Nebula and Hugo, and popularity does help, I think the results are a better guide to the good stuff than anything that Amazon does. If Amazon ever was about books, it is not any more. It has gone from a virtual bookshop to being a virtual, and rather disorganised, department store. And, if they ever had well-paid, enthusiastic, sales staff, that feeling has gone. Like so much of the modern world, people have become fungible.

Tor Books knows better.

And so we get another Jo Walton book, and the loneliness we suffer fades for a time.

#28 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2015, 08:59 PM:

Patrick writes:

A point made at greater length in this kinda-awesome post today on the newly-fledged Barnes and Noble science-fiction blog: The Amazing Jo Walton Has Written a Book for Every Genre Reader.

While I have frequently had occasion to think of Jo Walton as amazing, this is the first time I have been confronted with The Amazing Jo Walton.

LADIES and GENTlemen,
STEP right UP!
YOU'RE invited
By exCLUsive arrangement
A reMARKable artist
Come SEE

To the HIGH wire!
This aSTONishing performer
HERE in the BIG TOP--

With ONLY a TWO-Eighty-SIX comPUTer
And a TINY piece
ProTECTing her
From a
The aMAZing!
HIGH above the TEEMing CROWD

As she HAS
A-MUSing and ENterTAINing
Many MILLions
AMONG them
Of the INternet!

STEP right UP,
My friends,
This LITerary SPECtacle!
See it TODAY
See it NOW
Under the BIG TOP!
You'll tell your FRIENDS!
You'll tell your FAMILY!
And ONE day
You'll PROUDly tell your GRANDchildren:

#29 ::: Jody Cahn ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2015, 06:54 AM:

i hope that it's a positive sign of unexpectedly strong sales that B&N just emailed to say shipping will be later than they had said (since they had said today when i ordered yesterday) — one to five business days. i am required to buy a real book since my husband wants to read it too (and we're hoping our daughter as well — she's kind of a big Apollo fan, as a cellist.

#30 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2015, 08:23 AM:

Bill -- I've got a 386 now!

And actually, last year, the INCREDIBLE astonishing POWERFUL wonderful Lindsey Nilsen has SINGLE-HANDEDLY hacked Linux, DosBox and Protext so that they now all play together, and I have an AMAZINGLY TINY thumb drive that slots into a USB slot of any normal Linux computer and runs Protext, so I can write on a modern computer LIKE A NORMAL PERSON, well almost. And that's what I'm using to write NECESSITY.

It's so great having Protext on this computer. If somebody says "Hey Jo, can you quickly write a sonnet about Shakespeare vs Godzilla" I can just do it right away, no messing about moving chairs and then transferring files on floppies.

#31 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2015, 08:39 AM:

1. Jo in #30: I know you have more modern stuff now. But in the circus of my imagination, you are still using your 80286.

2. UK readers may wish to substitute "Roll up!" for "STEP right UP!"

3. My l'esprit de l'escalier wishes that I had worked "CLAD in BLUE" into the thing.

#32 ::: Eric K ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2015, 09:20 AM:

Jo Walton @ #30: It's glorious that you've hung onto a well-tuned text editor for so long that it can now be emulated. And this, in turn, suggests that you will be able to write comfortably on any future computers, up to and including the Qeng Ho in-flight systems. Three cheers for Lindsey Nilsen, Programmer-Archaeologist.

I feel much the same way about Emacs, which has been serving me faithfully since 1997 (and serving others for 25 years before that, in various incarnations).

#33 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2015, 01:18 PM:

Dave Bell, #27: "I am not sure if the UK and US print editions have different publication dates or not."

They do. As I said in the first paragraph of the OP. The UK print edition of THE JUST CITY will appear, I've been told, in July.

The UK ebook edition will be out this month. I can't speak to the confusion of January dates there.

Beyond that I can't answer questions, since I am neither Amazon UK nor am I Corsair/Constable-&-Robinson/Hachette (Jo's UK publisher, and hooray that she finally has a UK publisher.)

#34 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2015, 02:24 PM:

Patrick, I'm afraid that Amazon are being confusing.

They go to a great deal of trouble to maintain distinct data for ebooks in the different markets.

Apart from obvious things such as the paperback/hardback split, the distinctions for printed books are hellishly blurred on their website. They will sell me a printed book right now. The only clue as to the source is buried in the details, and is the name of the publisher.

If I were a representative of Corsair/Constable-&-Robinson/Hachette I would be somewhat pissed off by this. What's the point of running a distinct publication date, and planning publicity, when Amazon pull stunts like this?

Oh, we know that there have been importers of physical SF&F for a long time. It's mostly been a small market for the cogniscenti and, when they muscled in, Amazon were clear enough about what they were doing, even if they didn't really care.

Now, they're not even trying to be polite about it. And, with the EU looking closely at the dodgy deals they have done over corporate taxation in Europe, one wonders what one has been dealing with for all these years.

#35 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2015, 06:31 PM:

Jo, 30: Yes, please, I do suddenly need that sonnet.

Also, if I'd read this when I was ten, I would have learned Greek. Just in case.

Also also, someday when I have time, I'm going to make you a bookmark-sized sample of Simmea's book-and-scroll embroidery. I need to find the right blue, but other than that I know what it looks like.

#36 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2015, 10:07 AM:

TexAnne: That would be awesome. Also, the sonnet will be appearing on my LJ in a bit -- it's for Vericon.

#37 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 07:51 AM:

Dave Bell, #34: "Patrick, I'm afraid that Amazon are being confusing", etc etc.

Dave, you can say whatever you like about Amazon on Making Light, but I have no idea why you're addressing this bill of complaints about Amazon to me.

I already reminded you once that I am not Amazon UK and I am not Jo's UK publisher. I told you that I couldn't speak to the issue of UK print or ebook publication dates.

Do I need to also remind you that I am a senior employee of a large publishing conglomerate with a complex legal relationship to Amazon? Do you really imagine that I'm going to engage you in a public conversation about your complaints against Amazon UK? Or are you, as I suspect, pulling this stunt solely so you can make me uncomfortable and highlight my constraint?

I'm sure you have many legitimate complaints against various businesses. But right now, in this conversation, you are being an asshole to me and I'd like you to knock it off.

#38 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 12:42 PM:

Jo, congratulations on the publication of The Just City and thank you for another immersive and fascinating story. I just experienced a massive androgogical experiment recently (Hacker School) and particularly love reading thought experiments around pedagogy!

Relatedly: I believe I did retweet once: "RT if you're still angry about the Library of Alexandria." If you have related feelings you may find this book particularly interesting.

#39 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 01:49 PM:

Sumana: How could anybody NOT still be upset about the library of Alexandria?

#40 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2015, 08:26 PM:

Sumana @ 38 and Jo @ 39: Indeed.

(Also: I bought my copy last night as a reward to myself for being good and finishing off the last of a year's worth of sorting and filing papers, so yay! I got to start reading it already!)

#41 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2015, 12:07 PM:

Oo #39: I'm still upset about the sack of Constantinople in 1204 as well. Those Frankish barbarians were insufferable.

#42 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2015, 03:34 PM:

I've read it and enjoyed it quite a bit.

Might people want a spoiler thread?

#43 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2015, 03:38 PM:

Nancy @42:

There already is one here. Has been since the 16th.

#44 ::: clew ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2015, 01:17 AM:

PhiLOLsopher joke on the School of Athens.

#45 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2015, 06:43 AM:

As the update to the original post clarifies, the UK ebook edition is now scheduled for February 28 rather than January 15.

Reminder: Tor isn't the UK publisher; I'm just passing on what they've told Jo.

#46 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2015, 08:57 AM:

Sumana Harihareswara @ 38: I retweeted that, too.

Jo Walton @ 24: "I get bored writing the same kind of book. It's not any particular virtue..."

May I call bullshit in the most respectful--indeed, somewhat awestruck--way? That you don't write the same kind of story (other than good) over and over is one of the rarest virtues in an artist and one I cherish above almost all others.

Most of us have one story, if that. You are narratively ample and we are the richer for it.

#47 ::: Galen Charlton ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2015, 07:59 PM:

Reporting from snowier-than-usual Chicago at the American Library Association conference... My Real Children by Jo Walton was just named one of selections for the 2015 Reading List of adult genre fiction.

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