Kim Stanley Robinson, The Years of Rice and Salt

Kim Stanley Robinson’s, The Years of Rice and Salt is an enjoyable big picture alt-history: what if Europeans had been wiped out by a virulent plague around 1200 AD or so (I was never clear about the exact timing). Of course there would still be wars, and science, and religion. It is a fun (but a bit of a slog) to get through the 600 pages and 1000 years. Robinson uses a narrative device that works for awhile, but at some point I found a increasingly tedious (won’t spoil it). An editor could have cut 100 pages of sporadic and tedious discussions among characters about the meaning and interpretation of “big history” which often sounded like Robinson regurgitating undergraduate “big history” reading list. Overall, enjoyable if use your “skimming” algorithm judiciously.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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