Saturday, August 28, 2004

The Years of Rice and Salt

Written by Kim Stanley Robinson

This is an alternate history book, where the author describes what could have happened to the world, had historical events gone another way. (The canonical examples are 'What if the Nazi's won World War 2?', 'What if the Roman empire had never fallen?', and 'What if giant alien space bats gave Genghis Khan a death ray?'.) The premise of this book is 'What if the Black Plague killed 90% of the population of Europe?', in other words, 'What would the world be like today if there were no white people?'.

The premise is pretty cool, the narrative follows a handful of characters through history as their souls are reincarnated in different places and times, and they witness the growth of the Muslim and Chinese empires into superpowers. Unfortunately, I found it a bit of a slog to get through. In my refined and educated opinion, there was too much fucking around with the personal lives of the characters, and not enough foighting and explosions. 'Needed more frozen zombies', is the way this criticism is described on certain other booklogs. Still, it definitely had its high points, and I'm glad I read it, I just wish it had been half as long.

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