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The Plot to Save Socrates Paperback – February 20, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; First Edition edition (February 20, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765311976
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765311979
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #423,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this light, engaging time-travel yarn, Levinson (The Silk Code) ponders the problem of saving someone who refuses to be saved, in this case Socrates, the Athenian philosopher condemned to death in a shameful moment for democracy. Inspired by a newly discovered dialogue of Socrates in which he's offered escape by time travel, Sierra Waters, classics grad student in 2042, joins her professor, Thomas O'Leary, in a quest to return to the past. Along the way, Sierra gains a lover, the charismatic Athenian leader, Alcibiades, as well as an enigmatic ally, the fabled inventor Heron of Alexandria. Plans are made, betrayed and relaid, all aiming to bring Socrates away before his execution. But the wily thinker, out to embarrass Athens, will have none of it. The plot threatens to fracture as the characters constantly move backward and forward in time, but by the surprise end, Levinson succeeds in tying the main narrative together in a way that neatly satisfies the circularity inherent in time travel, whose paradoxes he links to Greek philosophy. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Classics grad student Sierra Waters is understandably skeptical when her advisor hands her an unknown Socratic dialogue between the imprisoned teacher and Andros, a time traveler. Andros offers Socrates an escape from the hemlock--a clone will be left in his place, and Socrates will live in the future. As she investigates the document's provenance, Sierra comes across a number of bizarre coincidences and, finally, the genuine possibility of time travel. She embarks on an adventure across past, present, and future, trying to puzzle out Andros' identity and save Socrates. In transit, she picks up Alcibiades of the honeyed thighs and enigmatic Heron of Alexandria. Eventually, she finds Socrates. The plot twists across itself, filling the book with paradoxes and potential paradoxes in total disregard for linear time, betrayal, and plotting. In the end, Socrates' fate and Andros' motivations and identity unexpectedly conclude a quick-to-read, entertaining treatment of the problems inherent in time travel with style and flair. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

My novel The Silk Code won the Locus Award for Best First Nove1 of 1999, and was published as an "author's cut" Kindle edition in 2012. My other science fiction and mystery novels include Borrowed Tides (2001), The Consciousness Plague (2002, 2013), The Pixel Eye (2003, 2014), The Plot To Save Socrates (2006; author's cut Kindle 2012; Entertainment Weekly called it "challenging fun"), and Unburning Alexandria (2013). My short stories have been nominated for Nebula, Hugo, Edgar, and Sturgeon Awards. Nine nonfiction books, including The Soft Edge (1997), Digital McLuhan (1999), Realspace (2003), Cellphone (2004), and New New Media (2009, 2nd edition 2012) have been the subject of major articles in the New York Times, Wired, the Christian Science Monitor, and have been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Polish, and eight other languages. I appear from time to time on MSNBC, Fox News ("The O'Reilly Factor"), The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, National Geographic, NPR, BBC Radio and other TV and radio programs - I like talking just as much as writing. I'm also a songwriter, and have been in several bands over the years - one had two records out on Atlantic Records in 1960s. My 1972 album Twice Upon a Rhyme (on HappySad Records) was re-issued on CD by Beatball/Big Pink Records in 2009, and on re-pressed vinyl by Whiplash/Sound of Salvation Records in 2010. I was listed in The Chronicle of Higher Education's "Top 10 Academic Twitterers" in 2009, and review the best of television on my Infinitte Regress.tv blog and on Starpulse. Last but not least: I have a PhD in Media Theory from New York University and am Professor of Communication & Media Studies at Fordham University in New York City.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Marc Ruby™ HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I'm not particularly attracted to time travel novels. Or to Greek philosophy and history. So deciding to read The Plot to Save Socrates was something of fortunate whim (yes, I do have whims on occasion). But what I feared might be a bit tedious turned out to be a fascinating volume with a story line that works on many levels, from philosophy to romance.

The basic plot is just what the title says. A missing Socratic dialogue is discovered that relates Socrates' last conversation. A conversation in which he is offered the opportunity to escape his impending doom and flee into the future. Offered the opportunity to participate in this adventure by Professor Thomas O'Leary, doctoral candidate Sierra Waters embarks on a complex journey that will have her following the tracks on an ancient (or modern) inventor, taking one of Socrates' best friends as a lover, and, eventually, joining in the effort to bring a reluctant Socrates to safe harbor.

At heart, this is a 'puzzle' story. Riding time traveling chairs across millennia, Waters and others crisscross each other; making sure that events happen in the right sequence, staging more than one hair's breadth escape, and generally muddying the waters. Only gradually does the real sequence of events emerge. This is often precisely why I don't like time travel novels - the artificial nature of the plot - but Paul Levinson displays the writing skills needed to keep this artificiality from overwhelming the real story.

What is the 'real' story? For each reader it will be something slightly different, but for me it is the insights into the nature of Socrates himself. This is a man who spurned democracy, was willing to chose death to make a point, and who greatly distrusted the written word.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on February 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In 2042 Classics Professor Thomas O'Leary shows Manhattan's Old School doctorate candidate Sierra Waters a recently discovered fragment of a Socrates Dialogue. Sierra is stunned when the great philosopher discusses an opportunity offered by a visitor Andros to his prison to escape his impending state sponsored death by traveling in time. After discussing the Dialogue with her boyfriend Max, Sierra talks to her faculty advisor who says he is going to a Wilmington hospital for an operation on an aneurysm near his heart and that he trusts Sierra to do the right thing when it comes to Socrates.

Sierra and Max soon investigate the reality of time travel not just the theories and learn of a machine in London. There they begin a journey through time to several BCE eras, the nineteenth century and two decades into their future in an attempt to persuade Socrates to escape imminent death by hemlock. However the great philosopher has other plans for the leadership of Athens even while Sierra is attracted to the "enemy" and there is no guarantee that the two graduate students will return to their doctorate present.

THE PLOT TO SAVE SOCRATES is a fun lighthearted time travel romp that in some ways will remind the audience of Bill and Ted though Sierra and Max are a lot more intelligent than the latter two. The story line is fast-paced as the twenty-first century travelers move back and forth in time with several intriguing surprises to include meeting real historical figures and a terrific final spin. Paul Levinson provides a strong science fiction thriller in which readers will have all the time in the world to join the quest to save Socrates.

Harriet Klausner
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Deborah Wiley VINE VOICE on October 24, 2007
Format: Audio CD
What if Socrates didn't really die and was offered an escape from his infamous death by hemlock poisoning? Paul Levinson asks just such a question in this fascinating time travel....

Doctoral student Sierra Waters isn't sure what to make of the dialogue between Socrates and Andros on the newly discovered manuscript fragment. Why is Thomas O'Leary, a member of her dissertation committee, giving it to her now? Even more bizarre is his sudden disappearance, a disappearance that sets Sierra off on an incredible journey. Time travel suddenly seems real as Sierra attempts to unravel the mystery behind the fragment in this epic adventure.

History comes to life in this fun and thought provoking tale! Socrates has always seemed a rather dour and dull figure to me but Paul Levinson breathes new life into this time. I must admit that I'm very unfamiliar with the plethora of historical figures who make an appearance in this tale, but it added another layer of intrigue as I spent almost as much time researching them as I did listening to the audio book! The print version of this tale has a very helpful appendix with notes about the various characters who appear.

The twists and turns make this story interesting as we wait to see how this tale will ultimately unfold. I'm not sure if true fans of the time period of Socrates and Alcibiades will appreciate this story nearly as much as those of us with only the barest of knowledge as Paul Levinson definitely takes some poetic license in the unveiling of THE PLOT TO SAVE SOCRATES.

Narrator Mark Shanahan does a fabulous job at providing different voices. This is particularly helpful as THE PLOT TO SAVE SOCRATES shifts perspectives quite a bit.
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