NECESSITY by Jo Walton
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A trilogy which began as an almost-dry intellectual exercise ends as a glorious kitchen sink of genre, combining philosophy, time travel, aliens, and the gods.

At the conclusion of Volume 2, The Philosopher Kings (2015), Zeus moved Athene’s civilization modeled after Plato’s Republic from ancient Greece to a distant planet in the 26th century (named Plato, of course). Forty years later, the next generation has established itself on Plato, joined by self-aware robots known as Workers and the alien Saeli. Now, a human spaceship prepares to land on Plato for the first time. And Pytheas, the god Apollo in human form, finally dies; but once returned to his divine form, the deity discovers that his sister Athene is missing from all time and space. It sounds like a lot of plot, but mostly it’s an excuse to explore whether or not Athene’s experiment is still working, discuss the nature of the soul, and engage in character development, both with old friends from the previous two books and new ones introduced here. Along the way, some mysteries are resolved and loose ends tied up. Ultimately, the endeavor proves to be surprisingly involving. The only real downside is that the first contact between the two human civilizations, which is initially touted as a major event, is mostly teased, not developed. Although some potential aspects are discussed, the reader never gets to truly witness the culture clash and eventual reconciliation between the essentially communist, cerebral, but culturally restrictive ideals of Plato versus the rampantly capitalist and presumably more pleasure-seeking “space humans,” who don’t even realize that their Workers are sentient. But perhaps both Walton and her characters refuse to spoon-feed the reader and wish us to do our own work of considering the implications.

Engaging food for thought.

Pub Date: July 12th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-7653-7902-3
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2016


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