What happens when the goddess Athene tries to establish Plato's Republic on Atlantis, populated with a few hundred philosophers plucked from 2,500 years of history, more than 10,000 manumitted slave children and a handful of robot workers?
For some reason, Plato is not invited, but Socrates is welcome, as are a number of Plato's translators and devotees, including Plotinus and Cicero. The adults, known as “masters,” are generally happy to build the Just City, but not all the children are, especially since it’s strongly implied that the masters encouraged the growth of slavery in various eras by purchasing so many children. And although the children are well-treated and educated, they're not allowed to leave and must follow strict rules whose provenance they can’t entirely understand, since they’re not even allowed to read The Republic. The justness of the City becomes even more questionable when evidence accumulates that the mechanical workers used in place of slaves may actually be sentient. There’s more thought experiment than plot here. The fictional and mythological protagonists have a certain appeal, but it’s disappointing that Walton (Among Others, 2011, etc.) barely sketches most of the historical characters who play minor roles in the story—readers will have to do the research themselves in order to flesh them out.
This is novel as study guide: Mary Renault meets undergraduate Philosophy 101.