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July 1, 2015

On sale yesterday: Jo Walton’s The Philosopher Kings, Book Two of Thessaly
Posted by Patrick at 08:37 AM * 27 comments

the-philosopher-kings.jpg On sale yesterday in hardcover and ebook in North America, on August 6 in ebook in the UK and associated markets, and sometime later in the UK as a trade paperback.

Excerpt here.

Author’s remarks about it on her own website:

The Philosopher Kings is the sequel to The Just City. Read that first! […]

It is my twelfth published novel. I wrote it betwen 20th June and 28th November 2013, in 28 writing days, and then revised it in early 2014. It’s set twenty years after the end of The Just City.

The Philosopher Kings is about…love and excellence. And responsibility. And art. And it’s about Apollo and his daughter Arete and Ficino and some other people going on a boat trip that leads them to end up somewhere you’d never have expected. The Just City uses the myth of Apollo and Daphne. The Philosopher Kings uses the myth of Apollo and Marsyas.

First line is “Not many people know that Pico della Mirandola stole the head of the Winged Victory of Samothrace.”

Read The Just City first, did I say that already? It seems to work for people reading it without, but it’s full of spoilers for the first book.

Some reviews

“[T]he gathered characters, their philosophical and practical discussions, and their character-driven decisions, along with Walton’s plain, declarative, and crystal-clear style, and the straightforward and probing dialogue (in both the Socratic and the fiction-writing senses), familiarize the high concept and make it seem plausible. […] Another of the reading pleasures here, and in all of Walton’s writing, is the intimate scale. Much as I love the more-is-more rush of [Neal] Stephenson’s work, Walton’s economical method is just as effective. The characters are just as complex, and perhaps more distinctive because they are not lost in the overwhelming detail about their environment. The environment in the Atlantean novels is detailed enough for us to supply the rest, and if we don’t know exactly how the robots work or how the ships are constructed, we still get the idea. This economy, along with the harmony among characters, events, and ideas, keeps her novels of ideas from seeming wooden or boring. Walton knows what to leave out as well as what to include. “
Joan Gordon, Los Angeles Review of Books

“[T]he science it deals with is moral science: it’s a science fiction of philosophy, as much argument as adventure, and its nature is such as to invite the reader to participate. That’s half the fun. More than half, over and above Walton’s agreeable prose and solidly believable characters—even Apollo is believable, and I have high standards for fictional gods, though that might be hubris. What does it mean to strive for excellence, as a person, and as a person among other people? What does it mean to be a hero, or a philosopher? What’s just? […] The Philosopher Kings is a very entertaining novel. It’s even more entertaining as an argument.”
Liz Bourke,

“Audacious … The end result is a satisfying conclusion, with room for more if desired.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“One of my favorite parts of this book is the characters running into the rest of the world and having it be something of a shock, after all these years, that there are people who are not in any way attempting to recreate Plato’s Republic. It has come to seem utterly, indisputably normal to them. And…I think we can all come up with aspects of our unique lives that feel totally normal until we compare them with the outside world and remember. It’s done really well, the shock of the new coming from an unexpected direction and yet feeling entirely in-character.”
Marissa Lingen, Novel Gazing Redux

“The ending is a knock-out, tongue-in-cheek deus ex machina twist explicitly stating that no matter how much The Philosopher Kings departed from The Just City, the third and final book, Necessity, will move exponentially farther away — both literally and figuratively. If there’s one thing Walton is brilliant at — and there are roughly 1 million of those — it’s not letting you know quite what kind of story you’re in, and leading you to relish the discovery.”
Amal El-Mohtar,

The Philosopher Kings, sequel to The Just City, will be followed by Book Three of Thessaly, Necessity, slated for summer 2016. Follow Jo Walton’s blog for updates.

Comments on On sale yesterday: Jo Walton's The Philosopher Kings, Book Two of Thessaly:
#1 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2015, 08:47 AM:

(1) Apologies for this post not going up yesterday on the book's actual publication day. As some of you will know from Twitter or elsewhere, yesterday was taken up with an unexpected emergency, now under control.

(2) Joan Gordon's review in the LA Review of Books, briefly quoted above, is actually a very thoughtful look at much of Jo's ouevre, making specific reference to Jo's own 2005 Foundation essay, "Who Survives the Cosy Catastrophe?" I saw Jo deliver this paper in person in Liverpool in 2001, at the Science Fiction Foundation's conference celebrating its own thirtieth anniversary; it's great to see the conversation continued.

#2 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2015, 10:27 AM:

I'm reading it already (pre-ordered, downloaded automatically to my Kindle).

#3 ::: marek ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2015, 10:53 AM:

Even better, Amazon UK is selling the hardback now ("only 7 left in stock") and says the Kindle version will be available from tomorrow. August may be running a little early this year.

#4 ::: Cassandra ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2015, 10:59 AM:

I was looking for some discussion here when I finished the book last night. Marvelous, marvelous story although the deus ex machina conclusion made me laugh. Very intrigued to see where the story will go next.

#5 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2015, 11:23 AM:

I've just started reading it myself. It arrived yesterday via the Great South American River and went straight to the top of the to read pile. This may result in confusing dreams in which Apollo is chased by Agatha Raisin.

#6 ::: micah ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2015, 11:31 AM:

My pre-order failed as the first victim of an error with my credit card. I was more angry that the pre-order didn't happen than that I had to call my bank.

#7 ::: Clifton ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2015, 12:21 PM:

Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! (That's as coherent as I can be right now.)

#8 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2015, 03:09 PM:

This book gives me many intense feelings and complicated thoughts--in a good way!--and I can't say much more than that until the spoilers thread.

#9 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2015, 03:14 PM:

Speaking of spoilers, ::shakes fist at Library Journal::

This is still listed as "on order" at my library. I placed a hold on it.

#10 ::: Benjamin Wolfe ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2015, 04:29 PM:

Yep, getting a copy from our local bookstore (which opened two blocks away from our apartment) the next time we go. Looking forward to it, given how much I liked The Just City.

#11 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2015, 04:55 PM:

Waiting for my copy, which has Not Yet Shipped but is supposed to be here Monday.

#12 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2015, 01:43 PM:

I was astonished yesterday to find it on the shelf in my local library, waiting for me to check it out (now they tell me the new Stross is on its way!)

#13 ::: Kelly Jennings ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2015, 03:06 PM:

I am halfway through mine. I need MORE TIME to read! (It's the last day of the Summer I session at my university and I am supposed to be grading essays. Rats!)

#14 ::: Kirilaw ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2015, 06:24 PM:

My (generally wonderful, and much-beloved) local bookshop inexplicably failed to have it in stock today! I have, of course, ordered it, but I'm on vacation next week, so it'll be a whole week and a half until I have it in my hands.

I am really rather pouty about this.

#15 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2015, 04:42 PM:

Looking forward impatiently to Necessity!

#16 ::: ULTRAGOTHA ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2015, 09:29 AM:

The link to the excerpt gives me a 404 error.

Library, here I come!

#17 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2015, 07:27 PM:

I've finished it. Jo has, among other things, given us a deus ex machina with a very dry sense of humour (I burst into delighted laughter) and an acerbic view of his children.

#18 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2015, 08:20 PM:

So, when is the next book coming out?

#19 ::: DanAudy ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2015, 10:31 PM:


I've been out of the loop for new books for a while so this comes as a complete surprise to me. Luckly it is also a perfectly timed one since I have several days of vacation and won't be showing up to work sleep deprived like I did reading The Just City.

#20 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2015, 02:00 PM:

Gosh that was fun. Can't wait for the next volume.

#21 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2015, 01:17 PM:

My copy finally came in at the library! [Does a little happy dance in anticipation of an evening reading.]

#22 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2015, 05:55 PM:

Nancy, did you mean to post that in the thread for spoilers?

(For now I'll just keep my fingers in my ears singing "la la la la la.")

#23 ::: Nancy Lebovitz accidentally posted in the wrong thread ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2015, 06:36 PM:

I did mean to put that in the thread for spoilers, and I'm very sorry.

abi, could you move it?

#24 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, Gardener of Threads ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2015, 06:59 PM:

Nancy, I can't move comments, but I've unpublished it. You can repeat it in the other thread.

#25 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2015, 07:03 PM:

Thanks very much.

#26 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2015, 08:42 AM:

Nancy: no worries.

Idumea: thank you.

#27 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2015, 10:47 AM:

Debbie was rereading The Just City the other day. So will Mike Ford ghost ghost-write a novel in the series titled How Much for Just the City?

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