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July 6, 2015

The SPOILER Kings, a discussion thread
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 06:18 PM * 56 comments

I know there’s not really that much to spoil in The Philosopher Kings, but in the unlikely event that revealing some of the minor details that are not well-foreshadowed in the previous book might be upsetting to the broader community, here’s a thread for such discussions.

Comments on The SPOILER Kings, a discussion thread:
#1 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2015, 06:55 PM:

Like the way Jo used AN ENTIRE BOOK as a spearpoint, so she could stab us all in the heart (or lung, as the case may be) on page 10?

I want to read NECESSITY right now. I don't want to have to wait a whole year.

#2 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2015, 08:51 PM:

TexAnne @1: Well, Jo's not a tame author.

#3 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2015, 09:07 PM:

TexAnne@1: Having that stab appear right at the start of the book also meant that the teaser on tor.com gave me weeks to go, "Wait, what?!" (plus a couple of self-inflicted waiting days after release date while I saved the book for a long plane flight).

#4 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2015, 09:15 PM:

dotless, #3: I very carefully did not read anything that looked vaguely like a spoiler, because I knew I'd fall over dead from suspense.

#5 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2015, 11:38 PM:

I had a difficult time with this book because I felt like I was being asked to like Ikaros and forgive him, and I can't do either. I know he's not one of the central characters, and he's not on stage very much, but for some reason he came to dominate my response to the book.

I wish I understood what it is that makes me want to smash Ikaros's face into the nearest brick wall, even at the end, when he finally seems to be showing some actual concern for Maia's well-being. I have never been sexually assaulted, so it's not personal in that sense. I know nothing about Pico della Mirandola except the few details mentioned in these books and what I read on Wikipedia; if I did know more maybe I'd have some basis for appreciating Ikaros as something more than another arrogant, selfish SOB who gets away with all sorts of crap by being charming and charismatic. I loathe him.

Whew.

It's a tribute to Jo Walton's writing that I have such strong feelings about a fictional character.

I don't know if anybody else is even interested in discussing this, especially as I am not a regular here. I just felt like I needed to get it off my chest. Carry on.

#6 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2015, 08:35 AM:

Janet, 5: Being a regular isn't a requirement, or else we'd never get new regulars! I'm not around as much as I used to be, either (oh--see that link called "view all by"? very handy tool) but when I come back, I'm always welcome.

So Ikaros, yeah...I hated him in the first book too. I think on rereading I'll know whether it was the book trying to convince me or just Maia, if that makes sense. It's definitely something I'll pay attention to when I reread, and I'm glad you brought it up.

#7 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2015, 03:20 PM:

Janet, #5: That bothered me too. Rules being for other people and getting away with it on charm and entitlement seem sufficient reasons to loath the character.

Perhaps because of that I didn't find his apparent redemption believable. He says that Klio explained consent to him, and she is perhaps equipped with better insight and arguments from her origin in our more progressive future. But even when we get it, we don't get it, as his comment about harnessing both our animal and rational minds to the same chariot shows. He asks Maia for forgiveness when she leaves Amazonia, which is I think about 8 years before the main events of the book.

I read this as the Republic project actually working. Ikaros, unlike Kebes, is trying to pursue excellence. Philosophical debate really is leading to a more just city.

This felt like something I was being told, not shown. It was hard enough to believe Apollo's transition, and he is both a viewpoint character and by all accounts exceptional. The descent into timarchy felt plausible, but restoring unity with even a cathartic, divinely inspired song seemed too easy. Is there a precedent in ancient Greek stories?

I think that was why I found this book less inspiring against entropy than the previous, or the Spare Change series. Perhaps that's what it is to be bound by Fate. Of course, very much looking forward to Necessity.

#8 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2015, 04:51 PM:

TexAnne #1: Yes, that was wicked of Jo. Especially when (a) Simmea stopped Pytheas from saving her and (b) Klymene also intervened even though she had no idea of the secret identity.

Klymene's hatred of Pytheas reached levels of, well, annoyingness to coin a word, that were astounding. Wanting him dead (especially after stopping him from apparent suicide) was evil.

Pytheas's anger at Kebes/Matthias for playing 'Summertime' as an original piece is a Chekhov's pistol. Necessity has to give us the explanation, since we didn't get it in this book. On t'other hand, Jo's crafty incorporation of the Marsyas tale into her story had me both smiling and wincing at the same time.

Finally, Zeus's appearance at the climax in response to Arete's invocation was one of the wittiest pieces Jo's done. Jo's given us an Olympian father god with a dry wit and an amazing amount of horse sense. I did laugh out loud at a couple of moments. From sheer delight.

Now, a bit of speculation. Since the final book of the trilogy is entitled Necessity will Ananke turn up as a divinity? Given that the Greeks deified every single abstract concept (and Jo makes note of this when Athene states 'I am reason'), I am rather expecting that she will appear as the god that the gods themselves revere. But I could be wrong. Jo is tricksy, clever, and delightful as a writer, and one cannot ask more.

#9 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2015, 04:53 PM:

Janet # 5: Ikaros does seem to grow as a human being, particularly in understanding that all people possess worth in themselves regardless of what their outsides look like and whether or not they are male or female. That seems to be his specific journey, in parallel to that of Pytheas/Apollo.

#10 ::: algebraist ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2015, 06:55 PM:

Janet@5: Yeah, I also felt like I was being asked to forgive Ikaros. I thought we were given a few moments along his evolution, without actually seeing his evolution. Also, Boys Explaining to Me What I Really Feel is one of my least favorite interpersonal dynamics, which made his apologies ring particularly hollow. I also didn't think he came across as particularly charming or intelligent; we're told he is, but we mostly see him through Maia's eyes, and apart from being his victim, she's not actually impressed by his brand of intelligence. People who are into purely formal syncretic philosophy can certainly be magnetic figures, but generally only to people who are also into that sort of thing.

I also thought I was being asked to forgive Athena, without her apologizing even as much as Ikaros. One of the arcs I found most interesting in The Just City was that at the beginning, she had a solid theoretical understanding of consent, but the book showed she had no practical understanding. I thought her explanation at the end of the Philosopher Kings that it was because she really loved Pico della Mirandola was underwhelming.

Overall, I think I was disappointed (in comparison to The Just City!) because there was too much told, not shown. And there were a lot of interesting threads picked up and then put back down. For example, someone notes that Matthias left on the Goodness shouting for justice, but the tension between striving for excellence and seeking justice isn't really explored. We're told that the Remnant City's solution to not having either slaves or workers is to just do less philosophy, but how did they arrive at that position? Do the golds resent having to work at all? Do the irons resent having to do the manual labor that the workers used to do? (and (as much as I love the idea of the art raids) how are they all living comfortably enough for that? or for Sokratea to have so many meetings?!)

There are a number of questions that are gestured at, like the question of whether and how to help the locals. But the answer seems to be "well, we just never thought of it, of course we'll help them now", which I found kind of underwhelming.

(also, how does Arete know what money is?)

Also, I have to say that if I found out that someone I loved was capable of even contemplating flaying someone, my reaction would be a little bit stronger than not wanting to watch.

#11 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2015, 07:47 PM:

TexAnne #6 – Thank you. I felt like coming in for the first time in ages, with a very cranky comment, might be impolitic.

In the first book I found Ikaros’s behavior more reprehensible than Kebes’s, mainly because Ikaros is a sophisticated, experienced adult in a position of great privilege and influence, while Kebes is an inexperienced, deeply damaged, and largely powerless youth. In general, I would hold someone like Ikaros to a higher standard of behavior. I agree that it’s crucial to distinguish between Maia being persuaded and the reader being persuaded. She has her own reasons for her decisions, and in particular I think I understand why someone in her situation would say “we can’t change the past, we can only go on from here.” It’s been ~30 years, and I can understand why she would want to put it behind her.

(Btw, I also hope I’m being clear enough about the distinction between Pico della Mirandola, the historical person, and Pico/Ikaros, the character.)

Ralph Giles #7 – I didn’t feel that I (as a reader) was being asked to forgive Ikaros during that first scene in which he apologizes to Maia, because Maia herself forgives him only grudgingly, and she also tells him straight out that she thinks he’s trying to manipulate her and that she distrusts his motives. I read his actions in that scene as completely self-interested and strategic (I keep wanting to put scare quotes around the word "apology"). He begins by walking up behind her and startling her when she’s partially or wholly naked. If that’s not an attempt to put her at a disadvantage, then what is it? And then the way he approaches the conversation is basically that he wants her to stay in the City of Amazons, and he’s decided that this is the way to do it. At every turn he discounts her experience and assumes that he knows her better than she knows herself. He still insists that she really loves him, and that she really wanted him sexually; he passes judgment on her relationship with Lysias (and also, humiliatingly, he tells her about the unflattering things Lysias has been saying about her to his new lover); he tells her that she’s incapable of love; worst of all, he suggests that her intellectual disputes with him are due to her holding a grudge against him, which in a city of philosophers counts must be a really low blow.

I also don’t buy his “I didn’t understand then, but now I do” explanation, for various reasons, but this is getting really long, so I won’t go into why I think so unless anybody really wants my thoughts on the subject. It can be boiled down to his avoidance of the word “rape.”

It’s unlikely that there’s much he could do to make amends for the rape after all this time, but he doesn’t even ask. He also doesn’t ask if there’s anything he could do to make it possible for her to stay in the City of Amazons. He wants her to stay in the city, but only if he can persuade her to stay on his terms. On the one hand I found it very satisfying that Maia doesn’t give him anything he asks for, except for that very grudging forgiveness, but in the end she’s the one who loses, because she has to sacrifice her relationships with her friends and students and leave the city she loves and helped to found. And he doesn’t give any indication that he understands that he has harmed her once again.

But I do feel like I’m being asked to accept that he’s changed near the end. When Arrete asks him why he was so mean to Maia, for the first time in this book he responds as though he’s genuinely remorseful for hurting her. And in the scene in which he goes to talk to Maia during the conference and she reads to him from his illicit Bible, he finally acknowledges to her that he hurt her in a profound way. (He still can't say the word "rape," though.) The problem is that I still don’t understand why he’s changed. Has he been humbled by his increasing blindness? Maybe, but then he gets his sight back in the end, and incredible power and privilege, so it’s hard to believe that he’ll actually retain any of that humility.

I find Apollo’s transition more convincing, partly because we see it from his point of view, and partly because he suffers in ways that are relevant to the lesson he’s learning. Ikaros suffers being blind, and with someone for whom the written word is so central, that is very profound. But even though he wonders if it’s a punishment for his crime against Maia, I can’t see it as that. It’s appropriate for him to think that way, given his worldview, but it would be offensive for me to see it that way.

Fragano #9 -- But to me he doesn't seem to grow as a human being. See my comments above.

#12 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2015, 08:51 PM:

Fragano #8 – Klymene's anger at Pythias struck me as disproportionate at first, but I think it's partly explained in a scene in The Just City in which she talks about her experiences before coming to the City. She has a long history of being horribly mistreated and having no recourse. When Pythias hurts her, it’s the first time in her life that she’s been able to act on her anger, so he comes to stand for that whole history. Then the grudge builds on itself and becomes ingrained over time, until it has a life of its own.

Yes, I think we have to find out where Kebes learned “Summertime.” Apollo does indicate that he eventually found out, which seems like a promise that he will tell us about it.

#10 algebraist – That’s a good point about Athene. She comes across as a terrible hypocrite, especially with her loophole for getting out of the festival. She doesn't seem to understand sex on human terms, not even as well as Apollo does. Maybe she doesn’t understand why, if you're not going to be a lifelong virgin, consent to any particular act or partner would matter. I don't have the book with me, but I'll have to reread the beginning of The Just City and see exactly what she says to Apollo about Daphne.

I do find it strange in The Just City that nobody brings up the issue of consent with regard to the Festival of Hera. Most of the Masters from earlier eras would have been accustomed to arranged marriages, so I can understand why that problem wouldn’t have occurred to them. It might even seem kinder than sticking a couple together for life without full consent on both sides. But it seems to me that the more modern characters like Klio and Lysias ought to have had qualms about it. I wonder what the Masters would have done if any of the Children had come to them and said they wanted to remain celibate for life.

I wasn't sure what to think about the flaying scene. It's very disturbing, of course. I suppose that one way to think about it is that to Apollo death is impermanent, and in the vastness of time suffering is brief. So in that sense he still doesn't see things on a human scale.

#13 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2015, 09:42 PM:

I didn't feel that the resolutions with Ikaros were meant to persuade me to forgive him; I took them as scenes telling us about Maia and her readiness to act as a leader, what an Athenian would have called a magistrate, after they return from Olympus to the world.

The book is ringing continual changes on the theme of judgment, and the sort of civic forgiveness which is necessary for civil life to continue ut sit finis litium is part of that. In addition he is fairly effectively removed from the future plot arc, so there's not much necessary investment in the sincerity of his changes. (He's also the sort of person who is utterly self centred in one way but unconcerned about self in another - I'd wager that nobody else there was treating Zeus' arrival by bouncing on their feet - which makes his response to argument the only way to get to him.)

He is, formally, the mainspring of the plots of both novels - the reason the whole experiment was set up in the first place, and the proximate cause if Simmea's death. Like Hippolytos, he's the votary of a goddess and shares her strengths and weaknesses, but I didn't feel that we're called, as readers, to sympathize with him. We are asked to recognize the type of forgiveness he receives as being a component of a type of justice.

#14 ::: algebraist ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 08:05 AM:

Janet@12: It's not just consent to sex Athene doesn't understand: Matthias' argument can be summarized as "what right do Athene and the masters have to do this to me against my will?"

I don't know that I agree with your characterization of Athene's virginity; that feels more like Artemis to me. I guess I would read it more as Athene is a virgin because she's detached from the flesh in general.

Since the masters had to pray to Athene to live in Plato's Republic, it's less surprising to me that the masters from our time would suppress their feelings about consent and the Festivals --- after all, they were self-selecting. I was a bit more surprised that the girls got no sex ed, not even the "tab A goes in slot B" talk that the boys got (from what I remember of Simmea's first Festival).

James@13: But Ikaros didn't ask for her forgiveness in his capacity as a citizen, what he said he wanted was her friendship (about 2/3 of the way through chapter 16 --- I'm reading an ebook so I can't give you page numbers). This happens considerably before the art raid that killed Simmea. And also she's spent, what, 30 years avoiding him and mistrusting him while he smirks that he doesn't need to rape her because he's sleeping with other women.

Where do you see this book dealing with differing notions of judgement? I read it in one sitting, so I could easily have missed things! The build-up to the flaying scene I'll give you --- a decades-old feud, a jury of nine rather than twelve, a trial by musical combat, a Remnant City juror seduced by jazz, a sneak attack to try to defy the verdict, and Apollo claiming he's flaying Matthias because it's Lucian justice. Something is clearly going on here that I'm not extracting from the text...

Also Apollo's decision not to kill Ikaros in revenge for Simmea's death (but note that there's neither a trial nor some kind of truth and reconciliation, just a decision that everyone is sick of fighting), which seems to fit your "forgiveness for the sake of civic duty" frame better than Maia's forgiveness of Ikaros.

Curiously absent: Engagement with the ending of the Oresteia, where Athene replaces blood feuds with civic justice in the form of jury trials. I'm again not sure what to make of this.

But I guess that brings me back to my issues with the characterization of Athene and Ikaros: I tend to think of Athene as a fairly abstract figure. Absolutely she has her favorites (e.g. Odysseus) and absolutely she can be spiteful and petty (e.g. Arachne). Extra-textually, I can absolutely believe that Pico della Mirandola would be one of her favorites. But do I believe she would fall in love in the way that's claimed in the conclusion? Well...

On a complete tangent, I want to read a novella about Simmea and friends holding a Greek symposium.

#15 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 10:11 AM:

Ikaros and Kebes commit two very different sins, in my opinion, though both of them commit rape as a result. Ikaros besetting sin is that of not understanding that theory is not practice. He is distracted by his own ideas about things. I think he's usually been the smartest person in the room, and has not really learned to listen to other people. The mistake he makes with Maia is that he has a theory about why people say yes or no to sex, and he fails to notice what Maia is actually saying because his theory presupposes a different response. This seems consistent with his cultural background and general arrogance. But he doesn't fail to understand that Maia is a person. He fails to listen to her because he is blinded by his own idea of what was going on. I think he really does value Maia as a person, but to some extent everybody is an abstraction in his head.

Kebes, on the other hand, never thinks of Simmea as a person. Simmea is a prop in his own narrative, a thing which he is entitled to, a prize, a symbol, not a person. Kebes essentially thinks of Simmea as a thing, not a person. On the occasions where he is forced to notice that she has desires and opinions that do not match his, he acts as if he has been betrayed.

Of the two sins, I find Ikaros forgivable, but not Kebes. Ikaros is that guy that thinks that people are equations that can be solved, that social interactions can be reduced to a simple flow-chart, and who does harm without meaning to. Sometimes huge harm, as in what happens to Maia. But I also think that someone with that failure mode has the capacity to learn; Kebes doesn't. Kebes is trapped in a world where only he is real, and everything else is a counter. I grant that Kebes was hugely damaged by his abduction, but his inability to grasp that other people can be hurt, or desire things he doesn't, is both realistic and appalling.

#16 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 11:31 AM:

Differing takes on judgement: obviously the judging of the musical competition, which manages to interleave both the "normal" judgement associated with a set of games (Delphic, Olympic, etc.) and effectively a civil trial between two adversaries with ensuing penalty; Pytheas/Apollo's independent judgement of Kebes for plagiarism (his domain as god of poetry and music does blend into intellectual property); the final judgement of Zeus, on Athena and on the whole project; the assessment of the assembled city delegates regarding the allocation of art.

We tend to separate out these kinds of decision, because we're used to a long history of distinct courts, but the models were much more fused in the world Plato knew.

#17 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 01:34 PM:

It occurs to me that I ought to stipulate that I'm assuming that all four narrators are "reliable" in the sense that their reports of events are accurate, though not necessarily their interpretations of them. This seems reasonable to me, given the conceit of the books.

James #13 -- But Maia's forgiveness isn't "civic" at all. Like Apollo's judgment of Kebes, it's completely private. She makes the decision not to accuse Ikaros publicly in The Just City almost immediately after the rape, when she tells Klio what happened and they agree that there's no point in seeking justice. In 30 years, she tells at most four people what happened: Klio, Pythias, Ficino (obliquely) and possibly Lysias, though I don't remember if it's ever made clear. Ikaros's only "punishment" is losing her friendship (which he doesn't seem to find all that troubling, despite what he says later). When she decides to put an end to that "punishment," it's personal (her own peace of mind), rather than "civic." I think I must be misunderstanding what you're saying here, because it seems like you're suggesting that her action of refusing to be Ikaros's friend is unreasonable, and that she has to give it up because it's somehow damaging the polity.

As for Ikaros being taken out of the plot arc, he's effectively become immortal, so he could reappear at any time, and it seems likely that he will take a continuing interest in the Cities. I'm not certain we're done with him.

#18 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 01:56 PM:

Me #17 -- "Like Apollo's judgment of Kebes, it's completely private." I'm talking about the judgment of plagiarism here, which James describes as "independent." "Private" probably isn't the right word. In fact, this makes no sense at all, but I don't seem to be able to edit. Sorry.

Anyway, I reiterate: Ikaros's rape of Maia is treated as a completely private matter, so I don't understand where "civic forgiveness" is relevant, except insofar as there is no civic justice in this case.

#19 ::: James ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 03:32 PM:

"Civic forgiveness" was, in its context, perhaps not clear enough.

I was distinguishing between a meaning of forgiveness which is required for the continuation of civil society as opposed to one which, say, a confessor might use; not to imply that the forgiveness is in itself public.

Two parties to a feud accepting the judgement of a tribunal and discontinuing their feud, agreeing to abide by the rules of society, is one form of this, but so would be private forgiveness of a wrong at the level of "we're never going to be friends, but I won't pursue the issue beyond that".

A reader confronted by an in-story form of either type of forgiveness may react by themselves refusing to accept the character being forgiven, but is, I think, less likely to feel that they are being asked to do so as well in the case of the civic level.

A narrative can present such a refusal as being justified as well, of course -- this is reflected in narratives of differing views over whether a criminal released from incarceration has "paid their debt to society" -- but in the context of the end of this book what I see is a convergence of a number of strands of judgement / acceptance of judgement / resolution of quarrels necessary for things to go forward, and is as such implicitly approved. (The type of judgement Maia shows is publicly relevant because although the matter itself is private she ends up as a chief magistrate, and the capacity for it is, if not a prerequisite, then a help in performing such a role.)

#20 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 04:19 PM:

James #19 -- But "private forgiveness of a wrong at the level of "we're never going to be friends, but I won't pursue the issue beyond that" is exactly what she does from the very beginning. Nothing further is necessary from a civic point of view. But Ikaros refuses to accept this and repeatedly pressures her to resume the friendship.

#21 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 04:49 PM:

Janet #11: I take your point. I find Ikaros/Pico's blindness and his willingness to take a step, albeit by no means a very large one, towards acknowledging the harm he did Maia, a sign of real evolution. But your viewpoint is valid, and you may be right.

Your #12, though, is very different. Klymene's willingness to see Pytheas done to death and her very obvious jealousy of the relationship between Simmea and Pytheas lead to a position that I can't see as other than evil.

Algebraist #14: You raise two very interesting issues. Let me take note of them. One has to do with the flaying of Kebes/Matthias. Jo, in that case, is dealing with a particular bit of mythology (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsyas) and very wittily incorporating it into her story as a means of relating her fiction to the larger body civilisational legendry. Pytheas is capable of flaying Kebes because the actual god Apollo as we have him in the mythology is supposed to have done that actual thing. Other gods do other cruel things, sending bears to eat rude children for example.

The other is the question of consent and the Festivals of Hera. They're an integral part of Plato's vision of the Republic. He intended to ensure that family would not emerge as a divisive force &c. &c. So why didn't Plato think about the issue of consent? Because he didn't think it necessary. The Greek citizen didn't have a private life when it came to civic affairs. We still have a version of the word they used for a person who valued their private interest before the public one, idiot. For Plato, the polis had priority over the individual. So that your desires, your interests, your concerns had to be subordinated to those of the state. It followed that if the state could require your service in war, it could require your service in producing new citizens. Your particular wishes were irrrelevant, in fact insofar as they set your desires above those of the common interest they were treasonous (or impious). In creating a Republic on Platonic lines, the Masters were implementing a state of precisely this kind.

#22 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 05:19 PM:

Janet, #11: You're right, Maia does an admirable job of standing up to Ikaros in the forgiveness discussion. I agree it's the at the end when it feels like his character is in an unearned place.

#23 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 06:14 PM:

algebraist, #14: 'Detached' seems like a good word for Athene. She seems genuinely surprised that things don't work out in practice with Plato's thought experiment.

In the first chapter of "The Just City" Apollo thinks she just hasn't gotten around to sex and other human stuff. Not that she'd be incapable, there are just more interesting things to investigate first. She explicitly rejects becoming mortal to experience the City, citing exactly those messy issues of emotional vulnerability. She wants to maintain her detachment from events.

Tangentially, he also describes her as the slow, plodding work to make connections between knowledge. He's the "Eureka!", she's the actual measuring weights and volumes of different metals. Which seems at odds with her being all-in-her-head interested only in theory, unless he means verifying the details by correlating more reports. I don't know much about the history of Greek science, but I've heard it lamented both what could have been if the spirit of rational inquiry hadn't died between ancient greece and the enlightenment, and that greece misled everyone for 2000 years with the idea that just thinking about what seemed right was sufficient without feedback from real-world implementation.

I'm not sure Apollo really gets how Athene approaches learning though, beyond understanding it's a different but overlapping sphere to his own.

Fragano, #21: Thanks for explaining about Marsyas, I hadn't appreciated how much of that scene was a reference. I still found it very jarring and out of character for the book's Apollo. He give wanted to find out how Mattias heard Gershwin as an excuse, at the same time he says that torture is ineffective for that. Which just leaves vengence. It doesn't feel very excellent, unless he's thinking of some political effect, like the way Arete says the contrast between the flaying and the peace song made people take the peace talks more seriously.

#24 ::: algebraist ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 06:34 PM:

Fragano@21: Re: Flaying: I had forgotten that particular story. But what pulled me out of the story there is not that Apollo could flay someone (the Greek gods could certainly be capricious and cruel), though he has been human for about 50 years at that point, it was Arete's lack of reaction. After all, her reaction to the idea of crucifixion was fairly horrified.

Re: Festivals of Hera: Janet gets credit for bringing that up. I agree Plato (and the Athenians) don't have much of a conception of personal rights, and that runs squarely against our ideas of sexual consent in The Just City (and the women making secret decisions to chew sylphium). That's part of why I think Simmea didn't characterize Matthias' actions as rape.

#25 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 08:56 PM:

I enjoyed the first book. I loved the second. I walked the half mile home from the bus with an umbrella in one hand and my Kobo reader in the other. Zeus had just picked them up and I had to know what happened immediately. The ending made me laugh with delight. Trust Jo to go from fantasy to SF.

I thought the scene where Ikaros asked Maia made it abundantly clear that he was still a schmuck, and really was just trying to convince her to stay because she was useful to the city. He kept saying the he finally understood that he'd done wrong when someone else explained it to him! He also helpfully explained her own feelings to her!

I'm on my iPad, so I can't search the page very well. I believe one of comments above was that people in the remnant city should need to work more to support themselves. I don't think that's the case. They didn't need to do heavy construction or road building, since that was done in advance. They did need to farm, spin, weave and cook meals. I think their lifestyle -- rather few objects and clothes -- could be supported without continual long hours.

One of the things I enjoy in the books is the description of their meals. When they reached the Goodness' cities, it was fun to see Arete's reaction to money and lower classes. It had never crossed my mind until then that even with their hierarchy of "metals", everyone in the city shared their homes and possessions.

We've formed a Dystopia Book Club at work, and I was talking to someone today about this attempt at utopia, and how it fell short.

#26 ::: Tim Bartik ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2015, 09:53 PM:

What I loved about these 2 books is that they got Plato RIGHT without worshiping him. Jo Walton clearly has a deep knowledge of classical political philosophy, but sees that it has its flaws and limitations.

The lives of characters such as Simmea, Maia, and Arete help illustrate why Plato's "excellence" might truly be an inspiring pursuit, in a way that is intelligible to modern readers. Yet Walton also shows that Plato's vision overlooks various aspects of human nature and the ways in which real world societies, even when new, can recreate the same old oppressions.

Too often in modern work that discusses the ancient philosophers one either sees dismissals (e.g., I.F. Stone), or a refusal to see any limitations of the ancients' wisdom (e.g., some Straussians). Within science fiction, I enjoyed Paul Levinson's novel "The Plot to Save Socrates", but thought it suffered too much from adopting I.F. Stone's conviction that Socrates was a pure reactionary.

The other recent work that this reminded me of, not in plot or feel, but in its balanced view of ancient philosophy, is Rebecca Goldstein's recent novel/treatise on Plato, "Plato at the Googleplex", which alternates chapters explaining Plato with fictional chapters that bring Plato to the modern U.S.

The one limitation of the book: as an economist, I think the original "Just City" would have fallen apart economically well before the robots departed. Ancient Greek cities' prosperity depended upon extensive trade with both near and far neighbors. I don't think an isolated city of these cities' small size would be viable for very long at any standard of living that would allow any time for philosophy. But this nitpicking probably doesn't bother any readers other than economists. I had to suspend a little disbelief to think that the original set of cities could do without more extensive trade with surrounding areas.

#27 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2015, 02:35 AM:

Fragano #21 – While reading your comment it occurred to me that Ikaros’s inability to see what’s directly in front of him is the kind of metaphor made flesh that seems particularly appropriate for him.

As for Klymene, I didn’t mean to suggest that her behavior is justified. But actually, I’m going to try to argue that it is. Everybody knows that the loser of the contest will die, but ostensibly the judges are deciding only who has won the musical contest. They all take a sacred vow to judge fairly, despite the fact that everybody assumes that the judges will vote politically, rather than on the quality of the performances. Apollo tries to stack the deck in his favor by choosing Neleus as a judge (since he is not technically his own son), and also by recruiting Neleus’s father and having Neleus campaign him. (So really, Kebes’s idea that the contest has been fixed isn’t completely far-fetched.) But if Klymene truly believed that Kebes’s performance was superior, as she later asserts, then voting for Pythias would mean breaking a sacred oath. Given that she’s been asked to decide the winner of the musical contest, should she even consider the resulting punishment? And even if she were voting only for who would die and who would live, would it be less evil for her to vote for Kebes’s death than for Pythias’s, and if so, why? We all know that Kebes is eeeevil, but Klymene doesn’t have any direct knowledge of this; what she has, mainly, is the word of Pythias, whom she doesn’t like or trust. It’s also true that by the time she casts her vote, she knows that Pythias has won the contest. My initial interpretation was that it was a protest vote, because she knew that it wouldn’t affect the outcome.

I agree with your description of consent as a non-issue for Plato. But part of what the books are about is how people inevitably bring their pasts with them. Even though all of the Masters are dedicated Platonists, they come from different life histories and different eras – if it weren’t for this, Maia and Ikaros wouldn’t find it so hard to understand each other.

#28 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2015, 09:33 AM:

Janet #27: That's an interesting argument with regard to Klymene.

It's true that part of what Jo is doing is looking at how people's pasts affect their lives, particularly when they're thrown into a different setting. However, she has set herself specific constraints -- Greek mythos and the specifics of the Platonic Republic -- within which she has to work. What she's done within those bounds, the game she's playing, if you will, is magnificent.


On another issue, that of Arete's response to Pytheas's flaying of Matthias: She's not outraged because Kebes was threatening to do precisely that to her beloved father and had just started a riot and put her friends and fellow citizens in grievous danger, not to mention being responsible for the death of Ficino, after losing the contest. She might be excellent in name, in spirit, and in character, but she also wants a just vengeance.

#29 ::: Ian Osmond ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2015, 11:25 AM:

So, first: I think that ending a book with a deus ex machina is probably justified when some of the characters are deī and others are machinae. Normally, I feel cheated by that sort of thing, but, in this case, I'm cool with it.

Second: I've got no problem with Apollo flaying someone alive, especially when that person 1. unjustly started a deadly fight which left several people dead; 2. was known for flaying other people alive and enjoying it. How many of you would really be bothered if Ramsay Bolton ended up flayed?

Nor do I have a problem with Arete being cool with it. She was raised with a different moral code than I was: she doesn't have the same concept of mercy that I do. For me, capital punishment is, if at all justified, a necessary evil whose goal is to remove a negative force from society, and therefore should always be done as quickly and humanely as possible. And, in fact, should probably not be done at all, at least not in the context and world in which I live.

But her world believes in balancing the scales by punishing hubris and breaches of honor. Killing the visitors wasn't THAT bad -- killing the visitors after offering hospitality was the torturable-to-death offense. And cheating in a life-and-death contest is clearly worthy of a worse death than simply losing honestly.

No, my problem was in the characterization of Matthias/Kebes in the first place. In the first book, yes, he was driven by anger and hurt and hatred -- but he actually made sense and was, fundamentally, a decent person. Turning him into a torturing, Inquisition-ing fanatic felt unfair, and like a way of justifying Apollo's torturing of him. I would have been fine with Matthias being a relatively generally decent person who mutually hated Apollo, so they were willing to torture each other to death for nothing more than personal reasons.

As part of that, I've got a serious problem with the cheating in the contest itself, most obviously the starting a war when he lost honestly, but also playing Gershwin in the first place. The contest was clearly "original composition, any instrument."

The only thing I can think of to excuse it is that, perhaps Matthias was thinking "original to the audience", rather than "written by me" -- but I think that's a real stretch.

My wife read me the Wikipedia entry on Marsyas, which explained a lot of why Jo wrote the scenes as she did, and that helped my understanding. But, again, Marsyas had lots of good qualities in mythology, and I think it would have been more interesting had Matthias exhibited more of those, too. Certainly, the plagiarism thing is out of character for the "wise satyr".

The other thing about that was I was hoping the contest went in a different direction: what if Matthias had won, and chose to torture Pythas in the way his tradition said was worst: the Stations of the Cross followed by crucifixion?

Followed by Apollo coming back to life?

What would THAT have done to everybody's perception of what was going on?

For what it's worth: this isn't the first time that Jo has presented a version of Christianity in which Jesus Himself is a really decent god, who exists, and is definitely worth worshiping, and there are a decent number of Christians who are really good people whose Christianity makes them even better -- but the actual Christian ORGANIZATION, whatever formal church exists, is evil and violent and tortures and kills people they consider heretics.

Which, come to think of it, isn't really that unfair a depiction of some Christianity in some times and places...

#30 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2015, 10:04 AM:

I haven't actually read this yet (just finished TJC), but as a side note, I think the bad reputation of dei ex machinis is largely due to Aristotle, who said in the Poetics that 'the resolution should come from the plot itself and not from a machine'. Although he believed in gods, he did not think they were active in human affairs, so from his point of view, a god turning up to sort things out was a paradigm of an implausible conclusion which is not justified by the plot. But if your world view is one in which the gods do involve themselves in human affairs, an occasional intervention may be totally plausible, and arise quite naturally out of the situation.

#31 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2015, 01:01 PM:

Andrew M @30: If people tell me I can't do something, I will immediately start thinking about ways I can do it. I'm afraid deus ex machina is that. "Take that, Aristotle!" I cackled gleefully as I finished writing PK.

James @13: What an insightful comment!

Everyone else: I will answer questions if you want, but don't want to interrupt valuable discussion by intruding the authorial voice.

#32 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2015, 01:50 PM:

There was one question that I had:
Twice the Olympian god of wine is named "Dionysios". In my reading, I've come across kings and philosophers named Dionysios with a second I, but I've only ever seen the god named "Dionysos". TNH did the copyedit, and that's the kind of thing I'd be quite surprised to have slip past her.

So is there textual or archeological support for the god having a second I in his name, that I don't know about?

#33 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2015, 02:46 PM:

David -- the -os -ios is a mostly modern disambiguation. And when I was writing _The Rebirth of Pan_ I was working with the modern Greek folklore of St Dionysios (who oddly enough invented wine!) and so got into the habit of using that as my preferred spelling for the deity.

#34 ::: Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2015, 02:31 PM:

"I know there’s not really that much to spoil in The Philosopher Kings,"

That bad, eh?

#35 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2015, 05:26 PM:

Ian @29: Yes, I feel much the same way about Matthias/Kebes and his characterization in this book.

I like the idea that the Christian group would go ahead and work (more) on helping other people versus working on their own philosophical excellence. The ship's names (Goodness versus Excellence) are another pointer to the same philosophical differentiation.

The bit about Matthias regularly flaying people on his own right seems to have come out of left field. Maybe I missed the clues (though I could see the Marsayas parallels coming from miles away).

#36 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2015, 10:14 AM:

My reaction to Matthias getting flayed had a lot to do with not expecting it. While I read books with a good bit of violence (I might read the next ASoIaF book), Thessaly didn't seem like that sort of series and I didn't know about Apollo having flayed a satyr.

I felt betrayed, and also felt as though there should have been some sort of emotional transition before getting back to people behaving as usual.

If I reread the two books (definitely worth doing when the third comes out, possibly sooner), I'll keep an eye on whether Matthias' character change makes sense. It's possible that having an unaddressed mean streak going back to childhood combined with absolute power is enough to lead to very bad behavior.

I was surprised that Apollo cared so much about plagiarism. It seems like a more modern concern, and it did seem to be presented as something he would be angry about in general, and not just because Matthias was cheating in an attempt to torture him to death.

In what sense do people survive their deaths if their memories are lost?

#37 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2015, 03:48 PM:

Fragano@21:I'm glad you mentioned Marsyas. Seeing how the flaying of Matthias is echoed in the Marsyas myth was really interesting to me since Athena had started the whole experiment with the idea that it wouldn't affect history. I guess myths have a way of escaping, just like dinosaurs.

#38 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2015, 01:00 PM:

μὰ τὸν κύνα τὸν Αἰγυπτίων θεόν — Plato Gorgias 482b.

I was curious, reading, about the occasional 'by the dog' exclamation. Wikipedia thinks it's just a way of saying "by god" without giving offense, but people in Greek stories swear by the gods all the time.

Then I noticed a footnote in my copy of Apology that this "curious oath" is occasionally used by Socrates. So when Phaedrus swears so in his conversation with Arete atop the ship's mast when they're deciding whether to go to Lucia, he's using an expression he heard from someone who picked it up it from Sokrates. Neat.

The footnote cites Plato's Gorgias where the full phrase above is given as "by the dog, the Egyptian god". So Sokrates is swearing by Anubis? What's up with that?

Since the gods are real and present in the story, perhaps Sokrates in particular has reasons to avoid swearing by Athena, by Apollo (they're right there). From the way Arete describes Zeus coming when she called him to bind her oath, perhaps he didn't want to give up the game there, either. Or less magically, Sokrates didn't want to express respect for divine intervention. He doesn't seem like the sort to worry about being bound to follow through on his statements though. Perhaps it's that he didn't believe invoking the gods was necessary? That one's own strength of character should be enough?

The Lodge commentary cited from the perseus link above says Socrates is just all, "Ha ha those silly Egyptians worship animals!" which is boring. Although they say "the addition" of the second phrase makes this joke, so perhaps that's a subsequent play after he'd chosen to start using the phrase?

#39 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2015, 01:00 PM:

μὰ τὸν κύνα τὸν Αἰγυπτίων θεόν — Plato Gorgias 482b.

I was curious, reading, about the occasional 'by the dog' exclamation. Wikipedia thinks it's just a way of saying "by god" without giving offense, but people in Greek stories swear by the gods all the time.

Then I noticed a footnote in my copy of Apology that this "curious oath" is occasionally used by Socrates. So when Phaedrus swears so in his conversation with Arete atop the ship's mast when they're deciding whether to go to Lucia, he's using an expression he heard from someone who picked it up it from Sokrates. Neat.

The footnote cites Plato's Gorgias where the full phrase above is given as "by the dog, the Egyptian god". So Sokrates is swearing by Anubis? What's up with that?

Since the gods are real and present in the story, perhaps Sokrates in particular has reasons to avoid swearing by Athena, by Apollo (they're right there). From the way Arete describes Zeus coming when she called him to bind her oath, perhaps he didn't want to give up the game there, either. Or less magically, Sokrates didn't want to express respect for divine intervention. He doesn't seem like the sort to worry about being bound to follow through on his statements though. Perhaps it's that he didn't believe invoking the gods was necessary? That one's own strength of character should be enough?

The Lodge commentary cited from the perseus link above says Socrates is just all, "Ha ha those silly Egyptians worship animals!" which is boring. Although they say "the addition" of the second phrase makes this joke, so perhaps that's a subsequent play after he'd chosen to start using the phrase?

#40 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2015, 01:01 PM:

Sorry for the double-post. Got an internal server error the first time.

#41 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2015, 05:31 PM:

I've been wondering about Matthias/Kebes, too. I had a lot of sympathy for Matthias in The Just City, and as I said above I find him easier to forgive (in JC) than Ikaros, not because I think his actions are any better but because of who he is. In JC he is damaged but (to me) not irredeemable; by The Philosopher Kings, he has become a tyrant and a torturer. Did this transformation begin with Sokrates' rejection of him at the end of JC? We know that there's more to Matthias's story than we're being told, because there's the whole mystery of how he learned "Summertime."

I feel like I've already said more than enough about Ikaros, but I just want to clarify one thing, which is that it's not Maia's forgiveness (or Apollo's forgiveness) that makes me feel that I as a reader am being asked to forgive him; rather, it's the events at the very end, in which he's given what looks to me like a huge reward. I suppose that whether he "deserves" it may matter less than whether he's fitted for the role he's given. Maybe I should try to think of it in those terms. After all, being a decent person by modern standards isn't a requirement for Classical godhood. Perhaps this is why I don't feel that I'm being asked to forgive Athene (algebraist #10) in the same way; forgiveness, in that instance, seems irrelevant.

And speaking of godhood, I've been thinking about Apollo's children and their powers. At first I was rather taken aback by this, because I don't think of demigods as having "powers," unless you count super strength. But then, the ones who become immortalized and deified do. Arete's powers have to do with communication and mutual understanding (except flying; maybe that one's just for fun). She could be a very powerful goddess.

#42 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2015, 01:45 PM:

Janet #41: You realise that you've just put in a giant spoiler for Necessity, don't you? Arete's powers -- flight, communication, comprehension -- look an awful lot like those of Hermes.

#43 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2015, 01:04 PM:

My last comment here was held by the Gnomes on the 15th and has not been released in spite of my having noted it. Have I been Sent to Coventry?

#44 ::: Mary Aileen alerts the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2015, 02:28 PM:

Signal boosting:

Fragano had a comment held for moderation on July 15th. It's visible in his view-all-by, so it should be able to be fished out from the back-end.

#45 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2015, 04:53 PM:

Re: the comments about spoilers, Simmea's death was what Library Journal spoiled in their little review. It struck me as wholly unnecessary, given that they could have mentioned Apollo's obsession with vengeance without explaining why he was so obsessed.

I hope we get a scene of Ikaros explaining to Athena how she feels about something. (Is that too cruel?) I'm not sure if we're meant to forgive him or merely to accept that Maia does, but I didn't forgive him and only very grudgingly accepted that Maia did. I'm sure that 30 years can change perspective quite a bit, but I know people personally who were subjected to sexual violence and decades later are still hurt by it and enraged about it. I do not blame them in the slightest.

#46 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2015, 09:40 PM:

(walks in with gaze averted and fingers in ears)

So I just finished The Just City and have squeed some over in its spoiler thread, if anyone from here is interested in a walk down memory lane.

I'll pop up and read THIS whole thread sometime after I get my hot little hands on the book; I'm currently 6th in line on 12 copies, so, um, probably end of August, realistically.

See you after Worldcon. :->

#47 ::: Ian Osmond ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2015, 08:59 AM:

johnofjack @45: I've talked to Jo about some of these things, and read her LiveJournal where she talks about some of the things she's thinking about while she's writing. Of course, she can talk about it more correctly, but I can give my impressions, based on my own reading as well as some of what she's said.

The first thing I notice is that Jo is one of the only people who writes about sexual violence that DOESN'T define the victims. They often AFFECT the victims, but they primarily change individual relationships, rather than a person's whole outlook.

And that is one true and accurate way that a certain number of women -- and men -- react to sexual assault. And BECAUSE we are constantly shown in media that being raped is supposed to change a person totally, the people who AREN'T affected that way sometimes feel like there is something wrong with them.

Going back to her first published fiction: THE KING'S NAME/THE KING'S PEACE, one of the first things that happens to Sulien is that she is raped. And she is asexual thereafter -- but she was asexual BEFORE that; the rape didn't MAKE her that way.

And, years later, she not only forgives her rapist, but he becomes one of her closest confidants.

That's not something we see in fiction, even though it IS something that, rarely, happens in real life. There is no one way that rape survivors react to being raped, even though there is only one way that rape survivors generally react in fiction.

And I LIKE that Jo normalizes a range of reactions. Can people fall into depression and self-loathing after being raped? Absolutely. Can people become angry and want revenge after rape? Yes, certainly.

But those aren't the only things that happen, even though they're usually the only things that happen in books.

Can people shrug it off as fundamentally not important to them, and just plain not be bothered? Yes. Can people hate the fact that it happened, and hate the perpetrator, but otherwise not be bothered? Yes. Can people work very hard to accept the fact that it happened, and work to forgive the perpetrator? Yes. Can people react in all sorts of ways, more than I can even imagine? Yes.

And should some of those other reactions be shown in fiction? Yes, I certainly think so. If you stick to only a small subset of reality, then you're writing in tropes, which is a fine thing to do if that's what you want to do, but not the only way to write.

And, from Jo's comments while writing the book, I've gotten the idea that one of the purposes of killing off Simmea was to give Apollo a reason to grieve, and the reason for doing it onscreen was to explain why he kept himself alive. The Apollo that she wrote would absolutely have killed himself in grief and respect, and she needed to come up with a reason for him to choose to stay alive. That reason had to be external, because she perceived her character to have no internal reason to remain mortal at that point, and it had to be so clear that it outweighed his desire to die.

She wanted to put Apollo in a position where his anchor to humanity, Simmea, was lost, but he nonetheless stayed mortal, because her last action was to tell him to do so.

His obsession with vengeance against Matthias was based on HIS reaction to Simmea's rape -- not Simmea's, who accepted it as unpleasant but not particularly much of a thing. And not about Simmea's death, which wasn't Matthias's fault.

So we have two rapes and perhaps at least six different reactions to them in this book alone -- the victims', the perpetrators', and a third party in each case. And NONE of them react remotely the same way.

And that's good.

#48 ::: johnofjack ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2015, 10:58 AM:

Ian, I don't really know how to respond to what you wrote. The first half of it strikes me as both reasonable and interesting, then I get to this: And should some of those other reactions be shown in fiction? Yes, I certainly think so. If you stick to only a small subset of reality, then you're writing in tropes, which is a fine thing to do if that's what you want to do, but not the only way to write. and I feel like maybe you're responding to something I didn't write.

I'm not terribly fond of predictable fiction; in general I like it quite a lot when the author is more clever than I am (and I'll gladly attest that Jo is), especially when the author comes up with a solution to a problem which I couldn't anticipate but which is logically consistent with both the characterization and the world which s/he has created. This is not indicative of a preference for clichés.

I also didn't mean to suggest that people shouldn't write about responses to rape (or molestation) outside of what I personally have seen. What I meant was that I had problems believing Maia's reaction as depicted. It's possible that's a failure of imagination on my part, but I will note that others here have expressed the same skepticism I did.

Personally I think that with just a bit more characterization of Maia grounding her reaction I could have believed it more easily. It's entirely possible that for other people (and I suspect you'd be among this group) that additional characterization would have been too much rather than just enough. Even Jo cannot write a book which pleases everyone.

None of my reaction has to do with whether things outside of my experience should be shown. I read fantasy and science fiction (and murder mysteries and thrillers, and superhero comics, etc.); of course I believe that things outside my experience should be shown.

#49 ::: Ian Osmond ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2015, 12:55 PM:

johnofjack -- oh, you're totally right that that was a response to something you didn't write. That was a general comment about fiction, and something that I admire about Jo's work in general. I wasn't assuming that you agreed or disagreed with the thought; it was a thought that I thought was related to the overall conversation, but not a direct response, and certainly not a disagreement, with anything you said.

#50 ::: Stanoje ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2015, 06:20 PM:

Did anyone else get a bit of a superhero vibe from Arete and her brothers? Sudden superpowers, considerations on how to use them responsibly, keeping them secret...

#51 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2015, 10:43 AM:

Fragano @42: How is that a spoiler? Zeus himself basically says "So you've clearly been building your own versions of the main pantheon, how convenient as I am about to send you off to seed your own world and mythologies."

(in other news, yes, I finally came up to the top of my library's hold list! For about eight long-anticipated books at once, so I am attempting to get through them quickly before they expire. :-> I am currently amidst _Hild_.)

#52 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: October 20, 2015, 04:02 AM:

Late to the party, I just finished the book a few days ago.

Does anyone else think the transplanted cities are going to resolve their argument about whether Athene is a demon or a goddess by deciding that she’s both? They’ll confuse her with Alethia, who the Romans called Veritas, and their descendants will call her by a distorted version of the Roman name.

#53 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2015, 01:06 AM:

When you say "a distorted version of the Roman name" my wordplay-sense starts tingling -- like there ought to be some recognizable name that is a distorted "Veritas". But if there is a wordplay here, I'm not getting it.

(The Greek is more commonly spelled "aletheia", btw.)

#55 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2015, 02:48 AM:

Ahhh. Thank you. Nice to know my wordplay-sense was not failing me.

#56 ::: Steve Halter ::: (view all by) ::: October 21, 2015, 08:57 AM:

Avram@54:lol

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