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The Years of Rice and Salt (2002)

by Kim Stanley Robinson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,4931063,690 (3.64)188
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 the plague had 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 practiced 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.… (more)
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» See also 188 mentions

English (97)  Spanish (3)  French (3)  Hungarian (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (106)
Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
Look, I'm very impressed but I'm not going to finish it ( )
  sarcher | Jan 31, 2024 |
II have raised my rating of this book from 3 stars to 4 because I find it occasionally popping into my thoughts years after having read it.
The greatest gift this book can bring to a reader is an awareness of history outside the West. By positing an alternate history in which Western Europe is essentially depopulated by plague in the Middle Ages, it gives scope to ask how the East might have developed.

But for me, this helped prompt the question of what the Eastern view of history is. Who made the major mathematical, scientific, and engineering developments in Asia, contemporaneous with or before their being wrought in the West? ( )
  Treebeard_404 | Jan 23, 2024 |
This is a strange book with a long, loopy, non-traditional plot structure and extended philosophical ruminations. But I loved its characters, and the issues it grapples with are near to my heart. If you like to read about anthropology, you'll like this. ( )
  mmparker | Oct 24, 2023 |
Kim Stanley Robinson is a brilliant writer, as evidenced by his Mars trilogy. This book however, hardly seems to have been written by the same person. The premise is clever, but the execution of that premise is poor. ( )
  lschiff | Sep 24, 2023 |
While it dragged on at parts, It was still good overall. It might've just been the epub edition that I was reading, but the paperback seems to be much better organized with maps and timelines, so I'd recommend reading that. It also divides the novel into multiple 'books', which makes it easier to keep track of the transitions in the writing style.

I think that the book is more enjoyable if you have previous knowledge of Islamic and Chinese culture, since the book doesn't really explain much of it. I feel that 'Dar Al Islam' as a whole is underdeveloped compared to China.

I think once you understand how the book is written and the characters developed (Characters whose names start with the same letter are that person reincarnated), its much better.

**Spoilers**

My biggest issues are with some of the events, like the Kerala and his nation of Travancore. I just find it hard to believe that he managed to conquer and unite India and Arabia all the way to Constantinople just because he has Steam Engines.

Also, I don't think a 67 year long War is sustainable. From the descriptions it sounds like a super World War 1. People were getting tired of the war after only 4 years, it just seems unlikely that a population will tolerate a stagnant war for 16 times as long.

Somewhere in the last pages, there's the line about how the Ka's change the world, but the Ba's keep it running that I really liked. I really liked the ending, even if it seemed like the author just shouting his views on history to me for a large part of it. ( )
  Vitaly1 | May 28, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
If there is a weakness in Robinson's work, it is perhaps this; his characters are so intelligent that they never shut up and often have fascinating conversations for page after page about the engineering of fortifications or the reconciliation of Sufism and Confucianism or, most extendedly, the ways that history works. It is always good talk, in which everyone speaks in character. For Robinson, science fiction is not only a literature of ideas, but a literature whose characters have lots of them.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Independent, Roz Kaveney
 

» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kim Stanley Robinsonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ayers, AlanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pinchot, BronsonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Pocket (5850)
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Epigraph
TRIPITAKA: Monkey, how far is it to the Western Heaven, the abode of Buddha?

WU-KONG: You can walk from the time of your youth till the time you grow old, and after that, till you become young again; and even after going through such a cycle a thousand times, you may still find it difficult to reach the place where you want to go. But when you perceive, by the resoluteness of your will, the Buddha-nature in all things, and when every one of your thoughts goes back to that fountain in your memory, that will be the time you arrive at Spirit Mountain. -- The Journey to the West
Dedication
First words
Monkey never dies.
Quotations
The word of God came down to man as rain to soil, and the result was mud, not clear water.
Reincarnation is a story we tell; then in the end it's the story itself that is the reincarnation.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (2)

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 the plague had 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 practiced 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.

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