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The Years of Rice and Salt Mass Market Paperback – June 3, 2003
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At the heart of the story are fundamental questions: what is the purpose of life and death? Are we eternal? Do our choices matter? The particular achievement of this book is that it weaves these threads into a story that is both intellectually and emotionally engaging. This is a highly recommended, challenging, and ambitious work. --Roz Genessee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
The book does get a little preachy towards the end, with Robinson spouting off his theories of historiography. It was also a little confusing by the end when he seemed to be trying to undermine his own theory of reincarnation with the secularist/materialist dogma of his characters. I wasn't sure if Robinson was advancing his own views or just relating the views of his characters according to what would be consistent for them during that point in his history. I also thought Robinson failed to provide a compelling ending to his book.Read more ›
This is an extremely thoughtful, haunting and often poetic view of an alternate world in which the population of Europe was completely killed off by the plague in the 13th century. Europe develops as a culturally stagnant, technologically backward group of Islamic states, earliest in the shadow of more vibrant Islamic societies to the East, and later in the shadow of technologically advanced India and militarily united China. China colonizes most of the New World, with Islam grabbing the eastern regions of North America. The world that develops is familiar in two ways -- first, history overall follows reasonably predictable lines, and second, the particular cultures that survive the plague develop more or less as one would expect from their counterparts in the world we actually live in.
Robinson makes the inspired decision to tell a small-scale human story as well, using the device of reincarnation to allow variants of the same three or four characters (identifiable by their initials) to sort of span 700 years. It's very sweet to see the characters lead different lives, sometimes male, sometimes female, not always human -- always friends or lovers, always engaged in versions of the same struggles and conflicts. Eventually, we figure out that it's the weakest of the central characters that is the focus of the book.
The problem with the book is its ultimate shallowness.Read more ›
humor, and considerable depth. The reviews, including the editorial review, give too much information
- it is best approached as a blank slate, and that includes not looking to closely at the material
on the dust jacket. Nonetheless, if you would like to know more:
Kim Stanley Robinson revisits the history of the last six hundred years, and rewrites it, fusing Tibetan
buddhism with a classic "what-if" scenario. For the sake of simplicity he does not allow his alternate
history to diverge too radically from our own, all the way up through World War I. There is however a
sentimental streak in Robinson, and he allows common sense just a little more scope at the end than has
actually prevailed in the modern world.
I did wonder, reading this, who the audience would be. Not everyone who was taken with the
Mars Trilogy or the Three Californias would necessarily want to swim in these depths.
Robinson does supply a detailed time-line on page 1, and the main calendar in use is the Islamic one,
beginning in our 622 A.D.
(Though it is a lunar calendar, simply adding 622 to the Islamic date gives a fair approximation to the
Christian calendar - and one can always consult the time-line on the first page.)
From this point on I'll allow myself some "spoiler" remarks, so if you want to read the book fresh, stop here.
The premise is that the European plague of 1347-1349 mutated and wiped out the bulk of Europe half
a century later. The history that follows on this is both political and
intellectual/scientific/technological, and the latter seems to drive the former.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Masterful use of Buddhist and Islamic philosophy (and other non-Western ways of thought) to drive a very thrilling and educational story.Published 13 days ago by lupardeu
Man I disliked this book. I heard him interviewed on Terri Gross' Fresh Air and bought Aurora and this book. Aurora was captivating and a great read. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Linda H.
A fascinating journey through an alternate history as told by a group of kindred spirits that are repeatedly reincarnated together. A creative topic executed very well.Published 2 months ago by David Egerton
It is a fantastic and thoughtful re-imagining of World History. The Bhuddist superstructure allows for provocative debates about the nature of the soul, ethics and obligation to... Read morePublished 2 months ago by C. Peterson
Loved it. A really fun departure if you've read all of Robinson's books.Published 2 months ago by Frank Drebin
Literally everyone who likes alternate history should read this book. The worldbuilding is fantastic. That's all I've got to say.Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
Very good writing. Believable, complex, sympathetic characters. A philosophy text with contemporary themes, investigation of individual's relationship with the world, with... Read morePublished 4 months ago by W. Schreiber