Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson

It is the fourteenth century and one of the most apocalyptic events in human history is set to occur: the coming of the Black Death. History teaches us that a third of Europe's population was destroyed. But what if? What if the plague killed 99 percent of the population instead? How would the world have changed? This is a look at the history that could have been - a history that stretches across centuries, a history that sees dynasties and nations rise and crumble, a history that spans horrible famine and magnificent innovation. These are the years of rice and salt.

This is a universe where the first ship to reach the New World travels across the Pacific Ocean from China and colonization spreads from west to east. This is a universe where the Industrial Revolution is triggered by the world's greatest scientific minds - in India. This is a universe where Buddhism and Islam are the most influential and practised religions and Christianity is merely a historical footnote.

Through the eyes of soldiers and kings, explorers and philosophers, slaves and scholars, Robinson renders an immensely rich tapestry. Rewriting history and probing the most profound questions as only he can, Robinson shines his extraordinary light on the place of religion, culture, power, and even love on such an Earth. From the steppes of Asia to the shores of the Western Hemisphere, from the age of Akbar to the present and beyond, here is the stunning story of the creation of a new world.

So I *really* don't like to quit reading books half way thru. I knew this was a long one and was really looking forward to reading it. Such an interesting idea, what if history had veered off down a different path, one specifically affecting the continent I live on ...

I got about 16% of the way thru (according to my Kindle). And then I stopped. I just could not get into it. The style never felt easy. I almost gave up sooner, but I persevered, thinking it may come together. But it never clicked with me. I am glad that the last lines of each chapter eventually stopped telling me to read the next chapter (so weird!). And in the time I was reading there was only a vague hint of  the alternate history. And it seemed to hinge too much on the Buddhist concept of reincarnation ... the same people repeating in different story lines (I think I got to the 3rd mini story before giving up).

Nope. This one was not for me. I prefer to look forward to picking up my book for some absorbing escapism ... not tedious concentration (unless it is really interesting).

1 comment:

MeeA said...

Ah, I'm so bummed to read your review on this; The intro makes it sound like something I'd be super keen on. But from the sound of it, I would be disappointed.

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