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Literature / Thessaly

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A fantasy book series by Jo Walton with the premise that the Greek God Athena and three hundred humans snatched from across time try to create the Just City detailed in Plato's The Republic in the pre-classical times on the island of Thera, using 10,000 children bought from slavers as their experimental subjects. Then Socrates shows up.

The series consists of:

  • The Just City (January 2015)
  • The Philosopher Kings (June 2015)
  • Necessity (July 2016)

Tropes present in this work:

  • Constantly Curious: Who else but Sokrates?
  • Date Rape: A man from the Renaissance sees nothing wrong with forcing a woman to have sex with him, even though she's protesting it is rape during the act.
  • Deconstruction: Of The Republic and of Plato playing Word of St. Paul through Sokrates.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The Masters of the Just City come from different eras of history, and include Roman politicians, Renaissance philosophers, and modern classics majors. They naturally have some very different ideas about morality... although they don't originally realize how deep some of their differences are.
  • Divine Date: Apollo and Simmea.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Divine on Mortal: Averted and examined, Apollo's mystification about why Daphne didn't want to have sex with him, to the point that she turned into a tree to escape him, is what kicks everything off.
  • Entitled to Have You: Mattais/Kebes in regard to Simmea.
  • God in Human Form: Apollo gives up his divinity to experience the Just City as a human and learn; he thinks Athena cheats by just pretending to be a human child.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Sokrates questioning everything destabilizes things.
  • Grew Beyond Their Programming: Crocus the worker robot wants to study philosophy.
  • Historical In-Joke: One of Sokrates's reasons not to escape prison is that he would just end up getting himself in trouble again. He's right.
  • Humans Are Flawed: and don't conform to Plato's idealized plan for the Just City. However, characters disagree as to whether the flaw is in humans for being unable to achieve Plato's vision, or in Plato's ideas for failing to understand how real people would act.
  • Jerkass Gods: Athena takes being bested in a debate just about as well as you'd imagine a Greek goddess to. Apollo is less of a Jerkass, because living as a human gradually teaches him to take humans' feelings into account.
  • Low Culture, High Tech: No one knows much about how the robots work, even the two people from the time where they were commonplace; justified, because they were philosophers, not engineers.
  • No Equal-Opportunity Time Travel: The women don't go on the trips through time to get the children or the art, nor does the sole man of Asian ancestry.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Ikaros' reasoning why what he did to Maia was not rape. Maia doesn't forgive him; made worse by the fact that she still has to work with him.
  • Switching P.O.V.: The first book alternates between three first-person narrators: Maia, one of the Masters of the Just City; the god Apollo, incarnate as a boy named Pytheas; and Simmea, one of the most brilliant of the children in the city. The second still has Maia and Apollo, but switches to Simmea's daughter Arete for the third POV.
  • Title Drop: Sokrates's house in the Just City is called Thessaly, a call back to his response to Crito's attempt to have him escape, "What would I do in Thessaly?"
  • Pals with Jesus: All of the adults know who Athena is, even when she's pretending to be one of the children of the city
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The question of robot sentience is a problem because the robots do all the manual labor on the island, including all of the farming.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: None of the adults have bad intentions, but none of them have actually thought things through, such as how raising 10,000 ten-year olds will work with fewer than 300 adults on the entire island.
  • You Didn't Ask: Why everyone but Sokrates assumed the workers didn't possess intelligence.