Unusual but enjoyable book,
This review is from: The Years of Rice and Salt (Hardcover)
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.