The years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson.
Goodreads Link – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2723.The_Years_of_Rice_and_Salt
ebook, 772 pages
Published June 3rd, 2003 by Spectra (first published 2002)
I was gifted this book about a year ago by a friend. It has been lying dormant on my bookshelf since then. Come December I wanted to read something unique and refreshing. I had enough of most of the fast-paced Genres. The title intrigued me and invariably I picked up this book to read on a quiet afternoon.
I have lived in most of the cities that the author talked about in the book. One of the cities that features early on in the book is Hangzhou, in Zhejiang province in China. I lived in Hangzhou for 4 years. Hangzhou is one of the most beautiful places on earth, with its romantic Westlake, countless eateries, pagoda’s, Buddhist temples tucked away in green mountains and its people.
The Review –
What if the plague (black death) which happened in Europe wiped out 99% of its population instead of 30%. How would the world develop then? Interesting idea, but the presentation of this idea is where Kim Stanley Robinson excels. He takes this idea and drops a dredging line through ages and presents the passing of time through eyes of a selected few characters. He gives them superhuman lifetimes by invoking the Buddhist ideology of reincarnation. After each lifetime is over, set in different time periods chronologically, we see the characters returning to the Bardo (“Bardo” is the state of existence intermediate between two lives on earth). There they reconcile with each other, including the villains of that chapter, for all them are penultimately connected to each other.
The heady mix of Tibetan, Indian, Chinese, Mongolian and Muslim cultures in a world devoid of Europeans and Christianity as the backdrop or the canvas on which our characters with their unique personalities moving through time towards the modern era creates a unique and intriguing read.
My recommendation – read it, its refreshing! 🙂