Travis Johns's Reviews > The Years of Rice and Salt

The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
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Jul 21, 08

Read in June, 2008

lesson to be learned: just because you like one book (or in this case, three) by a particular author doesn't necessarily have to imply that you will have to like all books. This, my darlings, is a blatant case in point.

Thy premise: The black plague knocks out 99 percent of Western Europe - so far, so good. However, instead of focusing on the immediate after effects of such an event, as is the case with the first chapter, albeit in somewhat of a too stylistically poetic fashion, the novel instead embarks on a parallel (note, parallel, not alternative) history of the world as the rest of the world matures in the void of the white man's burden... which is also an interesting notion, except for one small snatch - each and every single story focuses on the reincarnated souls of approximately 4 individuals, all with similar names who are somehow or another responsible for, oh, basically EVERY major invention and innovation in the history of mankind, and somehow in the thick of it all, nearly always end up being massacred at the end of their respective chapters... by about the third chapter, oh my children, the proverbial jig was, oh, just kindasorta up and I was officially bored... and only reading the novel for a.) hope of improvement and b.) lack of any idea as to what i wanted to read next.... ho hum.

Back to the parallel history aspect - just slightly weak. especially with regard to temporal events. somehow, nearly every major invention in the novel coincided with its temporal occurrence in our respective tomes - the telescope and gravity in the 17th century, an industrial revolution with trains and steam ships in the 18th, a world war in the mid-20th, etc. Many apologies, but being a history buff, I know how it all happened - if i want to read about alternatives, I'd hope that it would be something other than just a word scramble of proper nouns as to the wheres and whats that form the specifics of said alternication... not to mention that one single Sufi alchemist somehow manages to claim the merits of Newton, Gallileo and Kepler all in one... erm, mildly suspect, ja?

eh, just thought I'd share...
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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claire Yeah, you basically summed up my problems with the book in a nutshell.


Jake Oh man. I'm halfway through the book, and that alchemist part is what made me come look at reviews before I finished it. When they rattled off about half a dozen fields of science they wanted to invent in the span of like five pages, I actually got a notebook to list them so I could complain later.


message 3: by Fenixbird (new) - added it

Fenixbird SandS :) sounds very interesting..


Michael O. That Alchemist part was so terrible I had to vent here before I even finish the book.


message 5: by Todd (new) - rated it 1 star

Todd LOL, i got to the same part and had to take a break from this book. Just like reading thru one of my old history texts, and just as boring


Juliana Rew My sentiments exactly!


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