Sunday, August 14, 2016


Once again things come together and I find myself surrounded by books of a common theme--though from completely different angles. This month is all about utopias.

I finally read The Philosopher Kings, the sequel to The Just City.  It's a big jump from the first one--20 years later, some major characters lost--but it adds another layer to the irresistible premise of the first one: philosophers dealing with the real world.  When they start talking about excellence, you kind of want to roll your eyes, but the book shines when they try to decide whether running water is too indulgent, or face the fact that you can't live a life of the mind when you have to spend most of your time putting food on the table.

In this second volume, the city has split, and they interact with the outside world.  We meet all kinds of cities that aspiring Platonists might develop, and what an anti-Platonist city might look like.  Christianity rears its fraught head. Really, the point is to watch the next generation doing their thing.  In the previous book, we watched the Children grow up and the Masters figure out how to run the city.  Now, the Children are figuring out how to run the city, and the Young Ones are growing up.

The weird thing here is that the reality of the Greek gods becomes such a big part of the story.  On the one hand, it's interesting to see how people react to divine intervention when they know it as fact.  But on the other, the nitty gritty of how to be a god pulls this off the path of being the book of ideas where it shines and into the realm of fantastic worldbuilding.

These are quibbles--less than quibbles: observations.  The book brought me the same pleasure as The Just City; I loved Arete, and I was fascinated by Apollo's struggles with human suffering.

I'm also reading Eutopia, by David Nickle, a book with the subtitle A Novel of Terrible Optimism. I'm only just starting it up, but it's got a creepy solemnity that has me convinced I'm going to be scared out of my skin.  I'm also dying to figure out why a bunch of eugenicists in the early 1900s hired a Black doctor to work in their perfect community.  So far, we've got the Klan, and an ambitious and bright-eyed eugenics researcher, and a mysterious, 100% fatal illness (which may actually just be an irrelevant plot point). Plus some kind of inhuman somethings and maybe some naked moonlight sacrifice worship?  This book is full of potential is what I'm saying.

Because the world really can be a better place.

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