Freak August Storms and Thoughts on The Just City

It’s a beautiful day.  I have turned off the air conditioner and opened the windows and the back door to watch and listen to the rain falling on the parking lot of the crematorium.

I’ve grown used to August filling out the last stretch of unbroken 100+ degree days and the inescapable poisons of excessive ultra-violet radiation.  No one expected this storm, or the form it has taken.  It is a monstrous thing, smothering the entire eastern half of Texas and reaching its great tentacle up to the Great Lakes and into Canada.  It is the descendent of the storm that drowned Louisiana only a few days ago.

I am reveling in the cool temperatures and gray skies, but hoping the rivers don’t swell and start murdering people.  It’s an issue around here, in the great state of Texas that refuses to invest in updating our infrastructure or regulating the thousands of damns on private land having rotten and waiting to burst.

Over the weekend I read Jo Walton’s The Just City, which I probably would have appreciated more if I had previously read the full text of Plato’s Republic.  Despite that, it was a very interesting read.

The overall question of the book is what would happen if the Greek gods, namely Athena and Apollo, decided to run a multi-generation science project and try to create Plato’s Republic with thousands of people.  Specifically, about 10,000 children and a little over 350 adults.

Much like the Republic, it is overall a fascinating thought experiment.  Walton shows a good grasp of modern social theory, telling a story of what human nature would do to such an experiment.

Structurally it’s a bit weird, with point of view characters jumping around in time, with important events often followed by a chapter set in the past with another character to explain the setup of the previous chapter.  The vast majority of the book is conversations between characters wrestling with ideas.  It constantly felt like being in a bar with my friends in college, discussing something we had all just read.

The Just City  tackles many big issues in those conversations, ranging from sexuality (including rape), to slavery and artificial intelligence.  All these factors make for a book that dragged on a bit, and I would not recommend it to people looking to be entertained.  However, someone who loves reading about ideas, appreciates those types of conversations, or has a background in philosophy, would probably enjoy The Just City.

It’s got my head swirling with ideas, and I am tempted to enjoy the weather by finding a cafe with a nice, covered porch and writing all day.

pink flowers scattered on pavement - picture by Jennifer Burroughs,

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