BOOK REVIEW: The Philosopher Kings by Jo Walton

What. A. Let down.

I was so disappointed in this book I’m speechless. I’ve been trying to write this review for months now. It’s been a struggle. I’m going to let other reviews speak for me.

 A deus ex machina ending is no less of a poor literary device, even when it actually features Zeus, and killing off a major female character literally and unironically for the sake of a man’s emotional development ain’t gonna win you points.

Basically, the entire 2nd novel was pointless. [Spoilers] It literally seemed like an excuse to meander to where Walton wanted to take us all along: outer space. This book literally goes from The Republic to Perelandra. And not very gracefully at that. It was abrupt and thrust upon the reader. Unwillingly.

It’s obvious she didn’t know how to end her story and I’m liek maybe try workshopping it or something? Anyway, in retrospect this whole series was nothing more than a sophisticated thought experiment and turns out I shouldn’t have really wasted my time.

I’m still going to read the third book, but I’m not going to be as excited about it. If this was Jo Walton’s goal (to bring the Just City to space) then why not start it there in the first place? It just seems like she’s repeating her same concept over and over again. Maybe with different results, yes, but I’d rather just read about the most interesting one.

Beyond these, though, the weird “superpowers” given to the too-many-to-remember children of Apollo can be forgiven; the rickety deus ex machina of Zeus can be forgiven; the jarring sci-fi twist can be forgiven… Why? Because the philosophical topics the story continues to explore are its main saving grace.

The superpowers thing really rubbed me the wrong way, because it seemed so contrived. What does going to a specific place have to do with anything? Is that standard mythology? It may be, but it’s still really weird. Not to mention, are the kids really demigods? They were still created by mortal sperm (that comes from Apollo’s mortal body). Would they really have full demigod status? The science doesn’t work for me.

I think that Kebes should have been a much deeper character. He should have been relatable, not an endlessly malevolent bad guy with every violent and nasty predilection in the book.

I felt this way about Kebes as well. Walton really wasted an opportunity with how she got rid of Kebes. Also, the way Christianity was handled in the “wrong time” made me frown. The time-travel logic didn’t fit. If Kebes made things different, then Apollo would have known about it, wouldn’t he? Because it would be history. But he didn’t. And so the supposedly-wise god worried for nothing. I think what bothered me most about the “Christianity” bit was that Jo Walton didn’t have a good argument for why Kebes as a character would believe in Jesus. Or even need religion. None of the other characters seem to need it. Why use that as a reason to justify him wanting his own city? Sure, he hated the masters, but he was justified enough in his hate not to add religion into the mix. Does that make sense?

Please let me know and direct me to other reviews you liked–even your own!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s