Randall's Reviews > The Years of Rice and Salt

The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
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's review
Jun 02, 2011

it was ok
Read from June 02 to 19, 2011

I didn't actually finish the book, so I guess that should tell something about my opinion.

Robinson, in my opinion, struggles to balance between telling a story about a group of people through their various lifetimes through multiple reincarnations against the enormous background of an alternate history in which the European population is virtually eradicated by the Black Plague, allowing other cultures to fill the voids of conquest and development. The result is that at times the story seems to drag on and on and on in what seems like needless detail, while, at others, centuries fly by in the span of a few sentences, allowing dynasties to rise and fall with little-to-no mention.

What really drove me crazy is all the made up history that's just inserted into the story matter-of-factly, as if telling me something the Qing dynasty did would actually mean anything to me, while I assume it's meant to. Otherwise, why are you wasting time telling me about it.

I was interested in reading Robinson primarily due to his public rant about the exclusion of genre fiction in literary awards (specifically the Man Booker Prize, I believe). Doing a little research, I saw that it was his Mars series that was likely the best place to go, but since the library had this book available for borrowing as an electronic resource (that is, for my Nook), I decided to start here. Plus, I have to admit, the premise was/remains interesting enough.

I stopped at a point where it appears a world-wide war between the main powers is about to break out. It may get more interesting from here. I may even pick it up again to see how it all plays out. But, for now, I'm bored with it and need to read something with a little more pep.

I will say, if you're going to read this, you may want to keep a pen and paper handy to keep track of what happens. For my money and time, this story could have been told a lot more effectively as a blown-out time-line, which is far from necessitating 700 pages or what have you.

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Reading Progress

06/02/2011 "it is a bit odd for each chapter to end with an enticement to read the next. like quite a bit odd actually."
14.0% "So, far I can say I LOVE this book. I needed something enjoyable after back-to-back duds."
60.0% "Here's why this book is ultimately going to have failed me: Robinson can spend pages and pages describing the hallucinations of a devout person while fasting and in fear of his life, but when major historical events are taking place, weeks and months fly by in sentences. Seems anithetical at worst, but really just drives me crazy when it's already such a long bleeding book full of inaction. BAH!"
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