Tag Archives: jo walton

Galactic Suburbia 161

In which Alex & Tansy consume bucketloads of culture and explain what all those fan fund letters really mean. This is an educational podcast! Get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia

GUFF race (until 1 April)
DUFF race (until 10 March)


Tansy: Pantomime by Laura Lam,
Alex: lots of the Vorkosigan saga, Lois McMaster Bujold
Tansy: Harry Potter & the Cursed Child,
Alex: Obelisk Gate, NK Jemisin;
Tansy: Passing Strange by Ellen Klages,
Alex: Bright Air Black, David Vann;
Tansy: Dr Strange
Alex: My Real Children, Jo Walton
Tansy: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

Galactic Suburbia 144

In which books take longer to make than they do to read. You can get us from iTunes or at Galactic Suburbia. 

What’s New on the Internet?

Nebula Awards given

CJ CHerryh named SFWA grandmaster

SF Signal closing – farewell to our friends and thanks for all the links!

Get in your nominations to us for the GS AWard: for activism and/ or communication that advances the feminist conversation in the field of speculative fiction in 2015.

Alex: The Expanse Season 1; The Medusa Chronicles, Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds; The Philosopher Kings, Jo Walton

Alisa: books released & in progress: Defying Doomsday, Sharp Shooter, Grant Watson’s upcoming collection of film essays – see her Friday night at Continuum!

Tansy: Finished writing a book! My research reading list over the last several years includes: Orlando Furioso (Ludovico Ariosto/Slavitt translation), Thomas Bulfinch’s The Age of Chivalry & Charlemagne, E Nesbit’s entire backlist, Christina Rossetti, George McDonald, etc.

Also: Tansy’s serial Glass Slipper Scandal is now complete at the Sheep Might Fly podcast.

Skype number: 03 90164171 (within Australia) +613 90164171 (from overseas)

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

The Philosopher Kings

29367474.jpgThis was really quite different from The Just City. Where I felt that the first book was incredibly focussed on dialogue and discussion about what excellence is, what makes a just city, and how to live out Plato’s ideals – and I don’t mean any of that in a bad way, I adored it – this had a lot more action. What discussion there was often didn’t feel as grounded in philosophy because it was moving away from classical sources and into more personal, I think, reflections on being and existing. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a difference.

There are spoilers below for The Just City.

This is taking place twenty years after the events of the first book. Apollo is still there but Athene is still off in a huff. The place has fractured even further than it looked like it would when Kebes and his crew left; now there are several different cities on the island, all claiming to be Doing Plato in the Right Way – and all looking quite different. I LOVE this idea and wish there had been a bit more about how and why the cities were different. There is some, and it was enough for a taste, but I wanted extra.

Anyway the focus is still on Apollo and his family, so it’s still focussed on the original city. The narrators are Apollo, again, and Maia, again – and I liked keeping these original two because they have changed so much in some ways, and not in others. Maia especially has of course moved further away from the 18th-century girl she used to be. The additional narrator in the book is Arete (which means excellence), daughter of Apollo and Simmea. Yup. She’s quite young and very different in perspective compared to Apollo (natch) or Simmea when she was young because she’s had such a different experience – no being a slave for her, as for her mother, but instead a loving family environment.

The action is mostly spurred by one tragic act which has repercussions for a number of people although not for the entire city necessarily, which is another difference between this and the first; another way that it’s more personal, rather than society-wide. It does lead Apollo to consider more about the realities of being human and all, of course.

I enjoyed it, although not quite as much as The Just City. I cannot wait for the next book because WHOA what an ending.

Galactic Suburbia 136

355514-molly-meldrumIn which Alex and Tansy leap back into 2016 to talk Awards (it’s that season again!), comics, novellas, mysterious London novels and epic feminist canon.

Also, Molly Meldrum.

We’re on iTunes and over at Galactic Suburbia.
Locus Recommended Reading List.
BSFA Awards shortlist

Letters to Tiptree 99 cents! Bestseller on Amazon!

Tansy’s new podcast plug! Sheep Might Fly & Fake Geek Girl

Kickstarter for Ursula Le Guin documentary.

Nominating for Hugos (til end of March) don’t forget.

And Part 1 of the University of Oregon’s Tiptree Symposium, with Julie Phillips (Alex says: sorry not sorry, Tansy)


Tansy: Hellcat by Kate Leth & Brittney Williams, Archie by Mark Waid & Fiona Staples, The Honey Month by Amal El-Mohtar, The Beatriceid by Kate Elliott, “Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor, “The Heart is Eaten Last” by Kameron Hurley (note: Kameron says any new Patreon subscriber automatically gets access to all the stories she has posted so far including this one – bargain at as little as $1 a month!)

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Susannah Clarke; Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman; The Just City, Jo Walton; Walk to the End of the World, Suzy McKee Charnas. MOLLY.

Skype number: 03 90164171 (within Australia) +613 90164171 (from overseas)

Please send feedback to us at galacticsuburbia@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter at @galacticsuburbs, check out Galactic Suburbia Podcast on Facebook, support us at Patreon and don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes if you love us!

The Just City

I hadn’t even heard of this book until Katharine mischievously sent me a copy because she wanted to know how I would feel about it. And my initial feels are: omg THERE BETTER BE A SEQUEL.

Is that what you were expecting, K?

JustCity_150-206x300.jpgThe premise: Athene (yes, she who sprang fully formed) wonders what would happen if humans attempted to put Plato’s Republic into action – with a little help from her, of course. So she gathers together a bunch of people from across time who have all prayed to her, perhaps inadvertently, after reading The Republic and wanting themselves to put it into practise. And they’re going to collect slave children, and they’re going to try out their city on a certain island that will eventually be destroyed by a volcano… (yes Athene is aware of how recursive this is I LOVE YOU JO WALTON).

Apollo, meanwhile, is confounded by Daphne wanting so much to get away from his tender advances that she was happy to be turned into a tree, so he decides to become mortal to explore ideas of volition and equal significance. And hanging out in the fledgling Republic of the philosopher-kings seems like an interesting and pragmatic way of doing so.

The book’s chapters switch between a few different characters. Apollo gets a few, but not most, which is good because I liked his perspective and seeing what life was like for a being with godly knowledge but human limitations, but it would have got old to have him as the focus. Instead, most of the chapters are from female perspectives. Lucia, renamed Simmea, is from what I take to be the early Christian period; she’s bought as a slave and taken to Thera, destined to be brought up in the first generation of true Republicans. Maia, originally Ethel, was born in Yorkshire in 1841. Well educated for a girl at the time she appears destined for the standard gloomy life of struggling middle class woman, until she happens to cry out to Athene… and she’s transported to Thera to act as one of the guardians, teaching the new generation how to be their best selves and eventually develop into Plato’s philosopher-kings (… well, some of them).

I’ve not read The Republic. In fact, I’ve never read anything of Plato’s in much depth or at much length (I’ve taken some Classics subjects so I must have read a bit… right?). This is not, however, a problem for reading this novel because Walton does a wonderful job of having her characters discuss the various issues and conundrums and ideas that Plato raises – all without it seeming like an info-dump. Just as setting up the city is an experiment for Athene, this book is a thought-experiment itself. This book reminded me in some ways of Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, because so much of it is conversation- and ideas-driven. There is some action, but it is not the focus – and most of the action is connected to the ideas, showing them in action in some way. And I never once found it boring.

Issues confronted:

Slavery, good or bad? And can you have the perfect society as suggested by Plato without slaves to do at least some of the jobs?

Individuals as ‘fit for purpose’: should someone else get to determine what you do for your images.jpegentire life? Should your worth be entirely determined by the work that you do?

How to be one’s best self: I could not help but think of Bill and Ted, of course. But it is also a deeply intriguing question: how do we help ourselves and those around us be excellent?

Censorship: can it be a good thing?

Who can you trust? How do you know? Are there levels of trust, or areas in which someone is trustworthy and others in which they aren’t?

There is JUST SO MUCH in this book I have only scratched the surface IT IS EXCELLENT.

Slight spoiler

The one off-note that didn’t really work for me was the rape early on of one of the guardians. While it was occasionally referenced later on and certainly had some impact on the woman involved, I didn’t really see why it needed to be a part of the narrative. And it seems weird to say that this is a minor quibble, given the topic, but overall I think it’s dealt with mostly ok; it just didn’t quite sit right with me.

Aaaaand in finding the image for this post I’ve just discovered that the second book already exists in the world AAAAAAAH *buys*. (Also buys a hard copy of The Just City, for re-reading and shoving into people’s hands. My mother MUST read this.) You can get The Just City from Fishpond.

Tooth and Claw

Tooth and Claw is, by its own admission, a modern attempt at writing a Victorian novel. As it opens, the patriarch is dying, and the family have gathered. Soon enough there is a squabble over the inheritance: there’s not much wealth left, and the eldest two children are already established, so the younger three are meant to get the lion’s share to help them out. But the brother-in-law decides he disagrees with the interpretation of the will, and takes more than what the younger son, in particular, thinks is fair. He then begins court proceedings to deal with it. (The blurb on my copy calls this a search for “greedy remuneration,” but I thoroughly disagree with this interpretation.)

The family is gently-born, but with little wealth and a fairly small estate this isn’t overly much use. The younger son is struggling to make his way in the corporate world, and could use all the help he can get. His older brother is established as a parson in a good living, with a fairly generous benefactress, a wife, and some children; the older sister is married, with children and expecting more. The situation is of course most desperate for the two younger sisters. Without significant dowries, attracting suitable (and nice) husbands is going to be more difficult than pleasant… and it’s made more difficult for the older one when an unwanted suitor very nearly ruins her completely.

The story revolves mostly around the three younger siblings, although the older brother gets an occasional look-in. The sisters are parcelled off to their older siblings with hopes of finding suitors or at least not being too much in the way; the younger son goes back to his city life, and the things he’d rather his family not talk about.

… all right, all right. Those in the know are amused and eye-roll-y by this stage, everyone else is confused.


Everything I’ve written so far is true. But all of the characters? They’re dragons.

Yes. Dragons. Scales, claws, eating raw meat, flying, concerned about polishing their scales, sleeping on gold, breathing fire if they’re lucky, dragons. And it works. Walton takes some of the ideas of the Victorian novel and makes them real; her take on the blushing bride is brilliant. Her vision of menial dragons is perhaps the most shocking aspect – that their wings are tied down, such that they can never fly. This is a wonderful visual of the reality of life for many ‘in service’.

Also, dragons eat each other.

This is a great, fun story. It’s light-hearted overall with a serious social message (a few, really; perhaps closer to Gaskell than Austen?). The characters are approachable, the plot plays out nicely – it’s a delight to read.

Among Others: not a review

A friend asked me about this book the other day. She knows that I am into the Hugos, and she had heard people on Triple J – a radio station branding itself as the ‘youth station’ – talking about this as having won Best Novel. She said they described it as basically Harry Potter.

I imagine my reaction looked pretty funny, because I just. I can’t even. What?

Yes, there is a boarding school involved in both; yes, there is magic (…maybe?) involved in both.

But still. What?

Anyway. I loved this book. I read it so long ago that it seems a bit pointless writing anything that pretends to be a review, so I won’t – I just want to note down a few thoughts.

For all that I loved it, I did not love it as much as others. I know it resonated strongly for a lot of people because it reflected their own experiences, of The Discovery of Science Fiction especially. Mine it does not. Partly this is an age thing: Morwenna, the narrator, who tells this book via diary entries, is doing stuff on my birthday. I mean my actual birth day. So there’s that. More significantly though, it does not record my experience of discovering science fiction. In specific terms, I haven’t read most of the authors and titles Morwenna reports discovering (and there are a few I hadn’t even heard of) – I had to promise myself that I will read the novel a second time with pen in hand, to stop myself from feeling bad about not keeping a list of books to read as I read it the first time. In more general terms, this isn’t how I came to it. I started more with fantasy, and I was also reading a broader range of stuff, in my teens. I can remember one kid at my school with whom I shared an interest in speculative fiction, and we never talked about it. So… yeh. For me this reads as a fantasy both in magical terms (which I still think might not necessarily be real) but perhaps even more in the finding-of-like-minds aspects. Outside of cons (and sometimes even there, let’s be honest) I’ve rarely had the sort of experience Walton describes for Morwenna. It’d be nice though.

I really enjoyed Morwenna’s voice, and the novel worked especially well as a diary. She often sounds a bit older than she is, but I think the diary format explains that (as well as her somewhat precocious nature, and her voracious reading lending her an excellent vocabulary): it makes sense for someone like her to be experimenting with language in a private forum, and giving herself permission to push her imagination and storytelling to its fullest extent. I liked her ambiguity – about herself and in her attitudes towards her parents, friends, and school. She has very sensible reasons to be concerned on some of those fronts, especially about her mother, that do not translate to ‘real life’ – but the general feelings can, and do.

I admit that I am surprised that it won the Hugo, given its competition. Everyone seemed to think that GRRM had it sown up; in a year without that, I would have thought Mieville would win hands down, but then I adored Embassytown immensely so possibly I’m biased. But no: a book with a smattering of magic that is all about the discovery of SF and SF fandom won. I think that’s rather lovely, actually, and obviously also reflects the voters themselves… although what it says about them, I’m not willing to speculate.