Feb 7, 2008

The Years of Rice and Salt

by Kim Stanley Robinson

Is this going to be the week of abandoned books? I really made an effort to finish this one. I got to page 354 before it became tedious and I couldn't continue. The Years of Rice and Salt is an alternative history, covering over 600 years. It starts in the 1400's, when the Black Plague wipes out over 90% of the European population. Thus, in the chapters that follow, Christianity is a small minority, Chinese and Muslim powers dominate the world and discover the Americas. The story is told through several characters who are continually re-incarnated through the centuries, always having the same basic personality: one is a revolutionary prone to violent action, one a philosophical nurturing-type, one an inquiring intellectual... If anything, this book gave me a much better picture of the concept of reincarnation than The Reincarnationist did. There was also a strong sense of rebellion against the gods, which I found curious (it made me think of the His Dark Materials books). Unfortunately, I am unfamiliar with all the various religions represented in the book: Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc. There were so many cultural and religious terms I didn't recognize that I lost much of the meaning. Similarly, I'm not too strong on history, and this book covers so much that I couldn't appreciate the subtle differences between reality and invented historical events.

Having recently read Pastwatch, I found the sections dealing with discovery of the Americas an interesting comparative. I also like another part where one of the characters was reincarnated as a tiger. But by the time I got through those 350 pages, the plot was really dragging and I had lost interest in what any of the characters were experiencing.

Abandoned               Published: 2002, 658 pages


  1. You lasted longer than me at this one! I'll have to look into Pastwatch-your review made it sound so intriguing. :)

    I hope you enjoy Zen and...I loved it in high school, but I haven't opened it in over five years! It has one of my favourite quotes of all time: "But there are human forces stronger than logic."

  2. Eva- I am enjoying Zen and the Art... very much. It's my second time reading it, but it's been so long (high school too, I think) that I remember very little, so it's like an entirely new book!

  3. I just finished "The Pilgrim's Progress". It was extremely difficult. You need to know alot about the religous history of England. My copy had end notes and footnotes out the ear.

  4. Kimmie- Well, I wish Years of Rice and Salt had such notes! It really could have used a glossary, in particular.

  5. I feel so bad that you got that far and it kicked your butt instead of the other way around. Sending sympathy -- here's an ice pack.

    I shy away from KSR partly because my ex-husband is a really huge fan of his, and our tastes in literature have never matched up except for Sinclair Lewis.

  6. Anonymous2/08/2008

    I hate it when you get that far in a book and you just have to put it down. It seems like such a waste of time, yet who wants to continue reading what you don't enjoy?

  7. Bybee- well, I don't really feel injured, just disapopinted! Tired of it, no hard feelings. But an author I probably won't try again.

    Stephanie- Yes, pretty dismaying. I usually figure out enough to quit before I hit 100 pages. O well. Time to move on!


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