Customer Reviews


27 Reviews
5 star:
 (4)
4 star:
 (8)
3 star:
 (8)
2 star:
 (5)
1 star:
 (2)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Oriental" alternate history of the world
When the Mongol hordes reach Europe to fulfill their destiny of plunder and destruction, they find it empty... The whole population has been wiped out by the Pleague.
This is the premise on which the book is built. We then follow eight centuries of alternate world history, in a world without Westerners. Chinese discover the New World, Muslims settle in Europe, and...
Published on 6 Jun 2009 by Frederic J. Pont

versus
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars History without Europe
Robinson's novel is an exercise in hypothetical history writing : how would the world's history have looked like if the entire population of medieval Europe had been wiped out by the plague and Temur's hordes had only encountered an empty wasteland ?
Robinson sketches the answer in ten chapters that deal with a period of approximately six centuries, describing the...
Published on 27 July 2004 by Danny De Raymaeker


Most Helpful First | Newest First

4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual but enjoyable book, 18 April 2010
This was a strange book for me. It seemed to be something between an alternative history novel and a philisophical novel. The best comparison i can make is that it is a mixture of Harry Turtledove and the French writer Bernard Werber.

I agree with the previous review which says that the book is effectively a collection of short stories which are linked by the fact that the they are in the same story Universe and the characters are apparently reincarnated.

The reincarnation element is a bit strange and I can't help getting the feeling that it is more a plot device to link the characters of the different stories than anything else. But it may also simply an expression of the authori's belief that reincarantion is a possibility, although the idea is also criticised and discussed by the characters.

As to the stories themselves, they are a mixed bag. Often it just follows the lives of the character in each stories and their influence on the world. The pacing is quite variable. In some cases, it seems to go slow while in other cases decades can pass in a few lines. Some of the stories seemed to go on for too long, where other stories that I was really enjoying seemed to end abrubtly as i was just getting into it.

The one thing that I found a little dissapointing was that there was not a lot of action. But that is more an example of not judging a book from its cover since my version has a picture of a ruthless looking islamic warrior on it. There is war and battles, but it is usually described in summarised 3rd hand form rather than happening in real life for the most part.

In saying that, I have to say I enjoyed the book and it did keep my attention most of the time. I did enjoy reading about the alternative world and especially enjoyed the debates on religion and philosophy that took place in the book, which were actually enhanced by the fact that they were not compared to Christianity, as just about everything is now adays.

In some ways there was not enough detail on how the world develops. One moment, you are in the middle ages and then suddenly the stories shift to the industrial age. And I found myself fiding it diffidult to imagine the modern age after reading about the middle age environment for so long. Also, the cultures were very summarised and it was quite difficult to imagine what they were really like except for a few cases.

Anyway, I found it to be worth a read if you are looking for a varied philosophical story novel in an alternative universe and not expecting lots of real time action.

But if you are expecting lots of action, I would give this a miss.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars What if western civilization never existed?, 4 Jan 2006
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Imagine, for a moment, that western civilization not only did not evolve as we know it today, but that, in fact, it never existed at all. This intriguing speculation is the underlying premise of a novel which forces the reader to rethink all the assumptions with which we habitually evaluate the past--the "givens" through which we interpret events. Robinson presupposes that virtually all the inhabitants of Europe were wiped out by a plague in the fourteenth century and the continent left uninhabited. But this was not the end of the world, nor was it the end of learning and "progress." Life continued, but all the intellectual developments arose out of the Muslim states, China, India, and eventually the North America of the Native Americans.
Alternating workman-like prose with prose "poems" and, occasionally, stories and legends, Robinson crafts a fast-paced history of a different world, creating two characters who appear and reappear in different incarnations from 783 a. H. (after Hegira), roughly the late 14th century, to the present day. Keeping basically the same personalities, regardless of their incarnations, Bold Bardash (Bihari, Bistami, Butterfly, Bahram, etc.) and Kyu (Kokila, Kya, Katima, Kheim, etc.) travel through time, experiencing life under the Mongols, Indians, early Chinese emperors, Muslim leaders, and Japanese sailors during their discovery of the New World.
Some episodes are much more vivid, and ultimately more enlightening, than others, and as the cultures are brought to life, along with their different views of man's place in the universe, Robinson shows how the desire to impose one's own religion or beliefs on the outside world is the basis of some of the cruelest violence throughout history. Ultimately, the Great War, lasting sixty-seven years and costing one billion lives, pits the rulers of Dar al-Islam against the Travancori League (India), China, and the Hodenosaunee League (Native America).
While it is intriguing to contemplate alternative history, Robinson's goal--the alternative history of the entire world for the past six hundred years is an enormous subject, one which, because of its breadth and scope seems to lose focus and pace as the book progresses. And while the reincarnations of Bold and Kyu help to bridge many gaps and avoid some problems of character development, the device becomes a bit tired by the end. Still, in showing us how all aspects of our current knowledge might have developed in other societies if western civilization had not existed, Robinson goes a long way toward reducing intellectual arrogance and increasing empathy for other cultures. Despite the book's limitations, Robinson succeeds in creating an alternative history which offers much food for thought and considerable narrative excitement. Mary Whipple
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good book - Pity, it could have been great., 6 May 2003
By 
Nick Candoros (Athens - Greece) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Years of Rice and Salt (Paperback)
As a history addict, particularly ancient and medieval, I always find fascinating any scenario of what might have been and never was. The central idea of this book - a world shaped not by Christian European influence but by the East, that being Islam, India or China, seemed a very good start. And, having read the "Mars Trilogy" by the same writer, I was expecting much, maybe too much.
Well the book is not bad. It focuses on particular moments of this alternate History of Mankind, following a set of characters through successive reincarnations, as they try to understand themselves and the world around them, always trying to make it a better place in the small way that they can. I believe we could do very well without the reincarnations and the intervals in "Bardo" as the writer puts it. The book would loose nothing of its narrative potential and we would not have the trouble trying to follow which is which every time.
Otherwise, the general impression is that, although History is changed, it basically remains the same since the same gross and terrible mistakes are made by different peoples and nations.
I would not go so far as discourage anyone reading the book, I enjoyed it personally. But the overall impression is one of a really great book that it might have been, and sadly never was.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars marvellous, 22 April 2010
This review is from: The Years of Rice and Salt (Paperback)
An enjoyable meander through the interwoven multiple incarnations of several persons. It takes place in a parallel reality that peels further away from our own history, as the stories unfold, with an underlying momentum towards some unknown better future; and yet many of the same themes of war, sociology and technology reprise in this reality. In fact that is precisely how I read it; metaphorically like a musical symphony, with themes and ideas reappearing at intervals in varying circumstances and cultural backdrops, rather than as literal plot driven scifi. Consequently the dramatic progression is loose, but resonant; you feel drawn into the company of characters, and I did enjoy the way the shortness and context of a single life experience begins to look myopic until set into the larger tapestry of reincarnation and continuity of experience, building depth into the empathy and sympathy between the characters.
There are some sections that are more successful than others, some perhaps becoming too self regarding, but on the whole an imaginative departure from cliche, and reinterpretation of storytelling, which is pretty much one of the most exciting things I hope to find in a book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What if western civilization never existed?, 10 Nov 2002
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Imagine, for a moment, that western civilization not only did not evolve as we know it today, but that, in fact, it never existed at all. This intriguing speculation is the underlying premise of a novel which forces the reader to rethink all the assumptions with which we habitually evaluate the past--the "givens" through which we interpret events. Robinson presupposes that virtually all the inhabitants of Europe were wiped out by a plague in the fourteenth century and the continent left uninhabited. But this was not the end of the world, nor was it the end of learning and "progress." Life continued, but all the intellectual developments arose out of the Muslim states, China, India, and eventually the North America of the Native Americans.
Alternating workman-like prose with prose "poems" and, occasionally, stories and legends, Robinson crafts a fast-paced history of a different world, creating two characters who appear and reappear in different incarnations from 783 a. H. (after Hegira), roughly the late 14th century, to the present day. Keeping basically the same personalities, regardless of their incarnations, Bold Bardash (Bihari, Bistami, Butterfly, Bahram, etc.) and Kyu (Kokila, Kya, Katima, Kheim, etc.) travel through time, experiencing life under the Mongols, Indians, early Chinese emperors, Muslim leaders, and Japanese sailors during their discovery of the New World.
Some episodes are much more vivid, and ultimately more enlightening, than others, and as the cultures are brought to life, along with their different views of man's place in the universe, Robinson shows how the desire to impose one's own religion or beliefs on the outside world is the basis of some of the cruelest violence throughout history. Ultimately, the Great War, lasting sixty-seven years and costing one billion lives, pits the rulers of Dar al-Islam against the Travancori League (India), China, and the Hodenosaunee League (Native America).
While it is intriguing to contemplate alternative history, Robinson's goal--the alternative history of the entire world for the past six hundred years is an enormous subject, one which, because of its breadth and scope seems to lose focus and pace as the book progresses. And while the reincarnations of Bold and Kyu help to bridge many gaps and avoid some problems of character development, the device becomes a bit tired by the end. Still, in showing us how all aspects of our current knowledge might have developed in other societies if western civilization had not existed, Robinson goes a long way toward reducing intellectual arrogance and increasing empathy for other cultures. Despite the book's limitations, Robinson succeeds in creating an alternative history which offers much food for thought and considerable narrative excitement. Mary Whipple
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great concept, badly executed, 9 Jan 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Years of Rice and Salt (Paperback)
Kim is obviously a very knowledgeable fellow but not the sort of guy you'd like to get stuck with at a party.

There's some interesting ideas in this book but it really needs the help of a professional editor.

In particular, the first book (the main book is split into ten sub books)- you don't have to end each chapter with, "If you want to know what happened next, read on...". This isn't a Choose Your Own Adventure book and most of us learnt how books work about the same time that we learned how to read.

The Alchemist book also comes across like the author surfed Wikipedia for significant scientific advances then tried to attribute them all to one guy...

Overall: an interesting concept but an uphill slog of a read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent pessimism, 15 April 2006
By 
H. W. GOUGH-COOPER "herdsman" (Dunscore, Dumfries, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Years of Rice and Salt (Paperback)
I can understand some of the criticisms made by other reviewers but somehow feel they are missing the point of this epic conception, and feel it deserves at least another half a star. I do not remember being troubled by the reincarnations - they are intended as fleeting representatives of 'everyman', I think, anyway - , and the alternative history is fascinating and convincing. I would just remark that, as the book comes to its sour close, the outlook for mankind is just as dreary and depressing as if the Europeans had survived after all!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars The Journey is the Reward, 3 Jun 2011
By 
John M. Ford "johnDC" (near DC, MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Kim Stanley Robinson's book follows a small group through a half millenium of alternate history, from when the Black Death wipes out most of Europe to roughly the present time. The changes to history are interesting, as Far and Middle Eastern civilizations develop toward global dominance without European influence or constraint. But this re-imagined history isn't the book's strength.

We experience the altered centuries not through dry narration, nor through the eyes of a streaming cast of unrelated characters. Instead we learn how the East forms history from a handful of individuals who live, die, and are reborn without awareness of their previous lives. Although their circumstances change, core aspects of their personalities persist across lifetimes--as does their connectedness, their chance to interact and influence each other. In each generation we find our recurring characters and see what they must confront and conquer in themselves. From the patterns across lifetimes--and brief group "meetings" between reincarnations--we absorb an Eastern perspective on the great wheel of existence.

Science fiction is at its best when it offers something new--a technological advance, an alien species, an altered history--and explores the implications. This book's offering is a cyclic, Eastern view of existence. It was not invented by the author, but he makes it emotionally accessible to Western readers. The lack of any satisfactory conclusion to the book is unimportant, and even somewhat consistent with this worldview.

You should read this book for the journey, not the destination. Absorb a different view of the purpose of life and what it may mean to make progress as a person. You need not change your philosophy as a result. But you may find it easier to understand others who live outside it. And if you enjoy following these characters through the long paths of their history, you may also want to read Poul Anderson's Boat of A Million Years. It contains similar ideas about what different personalities may learn from the deep currents of time.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much Salt, 27 Oct 2003
By 
William G. Kent "steel enthusist" (in the back of your head) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Years of Rice and Salt (Paperback)
Years of Rice and Salt first got my attention due to its interesting core plot, i.e. the non-existence of Europeans. While this is indeed a good base for the story, the novel as a whole does strike me as needing more work, especially at the start since the descriptive style is somewhat simplistic but this does improve quite quickly. Likewise there is little expansion of any of the characters aside from those who keep being re-incarnated. This said there are many fine points to this book; the core plot does keep you wondering what's going to happen next and the emotions of the central characters are explored to a detail you don't normally see. In general if you are interested in this genre then it's probably a good buy otherwise you may feel slightly disappointed.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a book that completely rewrites world history - fantasitic!!, 12 Mar 2002
By A Customer
This book takes the 'what if' concept to the extreme, by proposing what the world would be like had European culture never existed. We get to see many interesting theories proposed, for instance what the world would have been like had femminism been invented hundreds of years earlier or reincarnation, i.e the core characters become reincarnated, so in essence follow the book through even though it spans hundreds of years. The scope of this book is immense, and though the first few chapters may be difficult to get through its worth the effort, as the author rewards your patience.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Years of Rice and Salt
The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson (Paperback - 3 Feb 2003)
Used & New from: £0.01
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews