Synopses & Reviews
With the incomparable vision and breathtaking detail that brought his now-classic Mars
trilogy to vivid life, bestselling author KIM STANLEY ROBINSON boldly imagines an alternate history of the last seven hundred years. In his grandest work yet, the acclaimed storyteller constructs a world vastly different from the one we know....
The Years of Rice and Salt
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 Europes 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 worlds 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.
From the Hardcover edition.
"After having cut out so much cerebral work for himself, Robinson could hardly be blamed if he lost track of more intimate matters in this book. But perhaps what's most remarkable about The Years of Rice and Salt is the way it hews so closely to the lineaments of the human heart even as it fans out across such a mammoth stage....Some of Robinson's historical revisionism seems unduly Pollyanna-ish....Nevertheless, The Years of Rice and Salt is for the most part a magnificent and endlessly fascinating book. Setting himself the Scheherazadean labor of holding his readers through a chain of tales, a series of endings and beginnings in which we must let go of one story and then quickly be caught up again in the next, he pulls it off with a trapeze artist's grace. There is also something uncannily prescient about the novel's deep, subtle examinations of the divided nature of Islam....It is a novel in which chance and human nature intertwine in countless ways, producing an alternate history that provocatively intersects with and departs from our own. It offers a vision of the world in which what shapes our fate, in the end, are the raw materials of humanity our brutality and selfishness, yes, but also our curiosity, our capacity for sympathy and our stubborn persistence in muddling our way to a better life." Laura Miller, Salon.com
"[This] alternate history is recognizably that of the last 650 years in our world, refracted by the ensorcelled lens of a wizard with a doctorate in history and a wicked sense of humor Robinson....Brilliantly conceived, the book may challenge readers less historically versed....Eventually, this book will probably place high on the list of Robinson's best work..." Roland Green, Booklist
"Robinson...has created a novel of ideas of the best sort, filled to overflowing with philosophy, theology and scientific theory." Publishers Weekly
"Superb storytelling and imaginative historic speculation make this a standout novel and a priority choice for all sf and general fiction collections. Highly recommended." Library Journal
"Kim Stanley Robinson's superb new novel covers 600 years of history that seem almost familiar, yet are completely different from our own....Rarely has a novel seemed so timely. Readers everywhere have been turning to books to find out more about people in other countries. The Years of Rice and Salt gives us what might have been, but, instead of looking backward, it faces forward and asks, what might we all yet be?" Gavin J. Grant, BookPage
"The writing in The Years of Rice and Salt is workmanlike for the most part, with occasional passages that seem lifted from a lecture. But its intriguing intellectual underpinnings easily support any stylistic lapses....[Robinson's] ingenious [plot] allows him to cluster short stories and novellas into a single, continuous work, while raising a host of fundamental questions about history." Polly Shulman, Newsday
"Blessed with moments of wry and gentle beauty as friends and antagonists rediscover each other under different guises in exotically dangerous locales." Kirkus Reviews
With the same visionary scope that brought his now-classic Mars trilogy to life, award-winning author Kim Stanley Robinson constructs an alternative history of the last 600 years--a history where the Black Death kills nearly everyone in Europe and where China, India and the nations of Islam control the world. NPR sponsorship.
About the Author
Kim Stanley Robinson is the author of the Nebula
and Hugo Award
—winning Mars trilogy: Red Mars
, Green Mars
, and Blue Mars
, as well as The Martians
, The Wild Shore
, The Gold Coast, Pacific Edge, A Short, Sharp Shock
, and other novels. He lives in Davis, California.
From the Hardcover edition.