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The Years of Rice and Salt summary The Years of Rice and Salt, series The Years of Rice and Salt, book The Years of Rice and Salt, pdf The Years of Rice and Salt, The Years of Rice and Salt e4fb6b0789 It Is The Fourteenth Century And One Of The Most Apocalyptic Events In Human History Is Set To Occur The Coming Of The Black Death History Teaches Us That A Third Of Europe S Population Was Destroyed But What If What If The Plague Killed Percent Of The Population Instead How Would The World Have Changed This Is A Look At The History That Could Have Been A History That Stretches Across Centuries, A History That Sees Dynasties And Nations Rise And Crumble, A History That Spans Horrible Famine And Magnificent Innovation These Are The Years Of Rice And Salt


10 thoughts on “The Years of Rice and Salt

  1. says:

    Christmas 2010 I realised that I had got stuck in a rut I was re reading old favourites again and again, waiting for a few trusted authors to release new works Something had to be done.On the spur of the moment I set myself a challenge, to read every book to have won the Locus Sci Fi award That s 35 books, 6 of which I d previously read, leaving 29 titles by 14 authors who were new to me.While working through this reading list I got married, went on my honeymoon, switched career and became a father As such these stories became imprinted on my memory as the soundtrack to the happiest period in my life so far.2003 was a wonderfully rich and diverse year for Sci Fi and Fantasy My beloved Locus Sci Fi Award went to this, Robinson s Years of Rice and Salt .The sister award, the Locus Fantasy went to Mi ville s The Scar which is awesome Gaiman s superb American Gods took the Nebula.The prestigious Hugo was awarded to Sawyer s Hominids The Separation , by Chris Priest picked up the Arthur C Clarke.The BSFA award went to Felaheen by JC Grimwood.McKillip s Ombria in Shadow , got the Mythopoeic and shared the World Fantasy.The other co winner of the World Fantasy was The Facts of Life by G Joyce.Eight awards eight different winners How often does that happen I was pretty cautious before starting The Years of Rice and Salt I d only read one other Robinson before Red Mars , many years before and found it tough going at the time but that s another review I chucked this into my suitcase for my honeymoon, content that if it was too much of a grind for around the pool reading, my wife was packing plenty of lighter fantasy fare I could borrow.My fears were all for naught this is totally different kettle of fish to the Mars Trilogy.Alternative history premise the black plague obliterated Europe and the Eastern civilizations scrap over global conquest.Story lens reincarnation A small family of souls reincarnate in different forms and relationships with each other over ten novellas covering seven hundred years in a great karmic cycle.I like Buddhism I like alternative histories I like the interlinked novella approach.For holiday reading, this was perfect I devoured a novella every time we took one of Malta s quirky buses to a tourist trap I sipped at them leisurely while lounging on the beach I chatted about the wonderful ideas with my new wife while we enjoyed room service on our balcony I loved the little between life moments of the reincarnation.By turns this book made me excited and tranquil It reminded me a little of David Mitchell s brilliant Ghostwritten with a touch of Wilbur Smith in each little adventure It was one of those books I didn t want to end Surely there could be one reincarnation One story I m surprised by the number of negative reviews I ve found, I guess it helps that I ve always held Buddhist inclinations I give this five stars without hesitation.Not long after we returned from our honeymoon one our cats, Callie, escaped and was killed on the road near our flat She was the prettiest, most affectionate kitty I ve ever met adored by all who met her even dog people When I found out that she had died, it was this book that came to mind One of the stories involves a soul demoted to a life as a tiger for one cycle.I told my wife that Callie was just too good to be a cat and they had to call her spirit back so she could be reincarnated as a person The idea was comforting Those words were still in my head when, very shortly after, I discovered we were having a child When I look into my baby son s eyes now, I wonder if, just maybe, there s a bit of Callie s endless curiosity looking back That makes me happy.


  2. says:

    This one s going right in the category of OMG this is epic SF of a very serious nature and scope.It goes well beyond the normal subgenre of alternate histories to throw us into a vast and very impressive exploration of China and India as they completely dominate the culture and space of the entire world under the slight alteration that most of the Caucasian world died off in the Black Plague.It s really gorgeous and it flows really well Expect many short novellas giving us snippets of time from the plague and progress it forward until we have a fully technological world Christianity is a footnote Muslims are dominant, as are Buddhists, but what really fascinated me was the poetry, the history of science and different terminologies, the odd similarities to our own history, including population pressures, various warcraft and a world war, the suffrage of women, medicine development, and so much .But what works best for me was a really brilliant thread of reincarnation As in, tying all the novels together in a later scholarly work that reconciles a few great souls from incarnation to incarnation through history We get the lives of those characters in the whole novel, and it really is gorgeous A Buddhist SF that not only focuses on being self referential and consistent, but it does it in a very detailed and academic way that feels almost too gorgeous for words.Brilliant doesn t really do the work justice.I m not going to say it doesn t get slightly overburdened by the science bits as if it was just a vehicle for some particularly juicy fundamental discoveries, but I also like that kind of stuff I didn t mind It did make the text a bit large, however I was reminded very favorably of some other epic SF tomes like Poul Anderson s Boat of a Million Years We have all of Time to work in and the idea exploration is breathtaking This one might become one of my favorite KSR novels Easily.


  3. says:

    4 1 2 stars Now rounded up to 5Alternative history, a very believable tale of how the world s civilizations would have could have developed if, in the fourteenth century, the plague that killed 30 60% of the people in Europe had instead killed virtually 100% including almost all Christians and Jews , while being less virulent in the middle east and Asia The subsequent six plus centuries up to roughly the present day are dominated by an Old World population predominantly Taoist or Muslim, with generous contributions from Buddhism From the latter the belief in reincarnation is appropriated as a central theme of the novel.Most of the Books of the story, which deal with various crucial developments or turning points in these centuries, end with a short section set in the Bardo , that state of existence in between two incarnations of a soul In this section the main character s usually than one of that Book relates their feelings about the life just concluded often, we also have suspicions confirmed that these characters are reincarnations of characters from previous Books This sounds hokey the way I am describing it, but for me it added another dimension to the story view spoiler The Books deal with the following 1 Awake to Emptiness the discovery by Mongol invaders that western Asia Eastern Europe are no longer inhabited by living humans.2 The Haj in the Heart taking place in Al Andalus Spain in the 16th century, with no interference from the Spanish Inquisition3 Ocean Continents the discovery of the Americas by China4 The Alchemist the development of the scientific method in Samarkand5 Warp and Weft a Japanese samurai warns Native Americans of the threat they face from the Chinese on the West Coast, and the Moslems on the East Coast6 Widow Kang a Muslim scholar attempts to form a synthesis of Taoism and Islam, in order to bring peace to the increasingly hostile major religions7 The Age of Great Progress the rise of a civilization and leader in southern India, which attempts to right the wrongs of the Chinese and Islamic hegemonies8 War of the Asuras a 70 year world war between China and the Islamic states, with the leagues of Books 5 and 7 drawn in.9 Nsara the aftermath of the war, in Muslim France10 The First Years civilization in our own time, with many of the same problems, and some different ones hide spoiler


  4. says:

    Dear Kim Stanley Robinson,I think your Mars trilogy is one of the greatest pieces of science fiction every written I ve read it twice in the past ten years and will probably read it three times before I grow old I even read the first book in your eco thriller trilogy and, though there s not much plot to speak of, thought it was interesting In short, I love you, man, you re mi hermano.But, damn, how did you manage to screw The Years of Rice and Salt up The concept is golden the plague completely wipes out ol whitey in 14th century Europe, leaving the rest of history to be written by the Chinese, Arabs, Native Americans, and so on That is enough alternative history for a trilogy, let alone a single book.And, yet, it is DULL I gave this my best effort, patiently wading through 400 pages in search of a compelling narrative thread before giving up If you want to write a philosophical treaties on Eastern thought, than please do so and sign me up as one of your eager audience But don t try to cram it into the guise of novel and string the reader along with the barest of narrative threadsit s just not the right format I m giving you two stars one for originality and one because, at heart, I m nostalgic for your earlier work and know that you re down with the program.


  5. says:

    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


  6. says:

    TRIPITAKA Monkey, how far is it to the Western Heaven, the abode of Buddha WU KONG You can walk from the time of your youth till the time you grow old, and after that, till you become young again and even after going through such a cycle a thousand times, you may still find it difficult to reach the place where you want to go But when you perceive, by the resoluteness of your will, the Buddha nature in all things, and when every one of your thoughts goes back to that fountain in your memory, that will be the time you arrive at Spirit Mountain. After reading this novel, I believe that KSR can stand proudly among the great philosophers of our time I already included him among the most erudite writers ever lived If I ever hear one saying that speculative fiction is not literature, I will smack them on the head with this book.In Red Mars trilogy I was astounded by his knowledge in physics, genetics, biology, politics, sociology, economics and a great deal of other fields Here, his knowledge of history, geography, culture and religion blew my mind The amount of research he does for every book he writes is enormous And to take all this knowledge and adapt them to an alternate history which gives you the creeps how accurate it feels, is just amazing.The blurb is precise in outlining the setup in which events are taking place But in all these years of turmoil, we follow a few souls which reincarnate repeatedly, as different persons in different ages, always meeting but almost never knowing that they know each other since the beginning of times The only time when they recognize each other is in the bardo, when they realize that soon there will be another rebirth and they try to do something different and meaningful in the next life.To recognize them, their names begins with the same letter There are several characters or less important, but three of them are the main ones K the revolutionary one, the Yang, the Water element as I saw them, always trying to change the world B the faithful one, The Yin, the Earth element, always trying to temper K and aiming to Nirvana I the scholar, the Wind element, which usually acts as a binder between the K and B.Technically, this is not a novel it consists of 10 stories, chronologically following each other on the timeline, each with its own set of characters which are different but all the same We have no plot, no action and not exactly an ending What we do have are lots of philosophical debates on Buddhist and Muslim precepts, extensive descriptions of cultural, social and political environments throughout the epochs and most of all, a vision of how the world would have looked like if Christianity disappeared and Islamic states and China would have ruled the world There are also other nations which made their significant contribution in this alternate history, such as the historical state Travancore India and the Haudenosaunee North American natives It may sound boring, but it isn t and keep in mind that this is not a favorite subgenre of mine There are, as in every book, fragments interesting than others or some which could have been shorter But in every of the ten stories there is something to keep your interest going and I savored every word Book 6 is my favorite it has the best debates I ever read on any given subject As to quote the author Certain moments give us such unexpected beauty .Although I mentioned that religion is an important part of the book, KSR brilliantly juggles through different point of views atheists, fervent religious and agnostic One example below and one of my favorites The religions that say you should sacrifice or even pray to a god like that who nevertheless act like bad children, deciding capriciously whom to reward and whom not to , to ask them to do something material for you, are the religions of desperate and ignorant people It is only when you get to the advanced and secure societies that you get a religion ready to face the universe honestly, to announce there is no clear sign of divinity, except for the existence of the cosmos in and of itself, which means that everything is holy, whether or not there be a god looking down on it There are also concepts which today sound inconceivable, such as the Islamic Queen Katima, the founder of Nsara Nantes , which later will be an important city in Firanja Europe Here s the modern map for a better picture of the world Bottom line is, it s a book you ll either love or hate, that s how I see it It s not an easy read and you have to be in the right mood to enjoy it In the end, it is the story of the human species no matter the setting or who rules the world, humans will always be greedy of power, always fighting for supremacy and money but there will also be genius, selfless minds to drive us forward The question is how much we will last.There is a lot to say about it, but I will just leave you with some of my favorites quotes and hope you ll give it a try some day There was no need to speak in this singing world, so huge, so knotted no human mind could ever comprehend it, even the music only touched the hem of it, and even that strand they failed to understand they only felt it The universal whole was beyond them And yet and yet sometimes, as at this moment, at dusk, in the wind, we catch, with a sixth sense we don t know we have, glimpses of that larger world vast shapes of cosmic significance, a sense of everything holy to dimensions beyond sense or thought or even feeling this visible world of ours, lit from within, stuffed vibrant with reality It doesn t work like that, Butterfly informed him as they panted off together into the mists I ve seen a lot of people try They lash out in fury and cut the hideous gods down, and how they deserve it and yet the gods spring back up, redoubled in other people A karmic law of this universe, my friend Like conservation of yin and yang, or gravity We live in a universe ruled by very few laws, but the redoubling of violence by violence is one of the main ones It takes courage to keep love at the center when you know just as well as anyone else the real state of things It s easy to get angry, anyone can do that It s making good that s the hard part, it s staying hopeful that s the hard part It s staying in love that s the hard part Khalid waggled his left hand All very well, but it only matters if the truth is faced and fought I m sick of love and happiness I want justice To a very great extent human history has been the story of the unequal accumulation of harvested wealth, shifting from one center of power to another, while always expanding the four great inequalities This is history Nowhere, as far as I know, has there ever been a civilization or moment when the wealth of the harvests created by all has been equitably distributed Power has been exerted wherever it can be, and each successful coercion has done its part to add to the general inequality, which has risen in direct proportion to the wealth gathered for wealth and power are much the same The possessors of the wealth in effect buy the armed power they need to enforce the growing inequality And so the cycle continues All the world s various religions have attempted to explain or mitigate these inequalities, including Islam, which originated in the effort to create a realm in which all are equal they have tried to justify the inequalities in this world They all have failed even Islam has failed the Dar al Islam is as damaged by inequality as anywhere else Indeed I now think that the Indian and Chinese description of the afterlife, the system of the six lokas or realms of reality the devas, asuras, humans, beasts, pretas, and inhabitants of hell is in fact a metaphorical but precise description of this world and the inequalities that exist in it, with the devas sitting in luxury and judgment on the rest, the asuras fighting to keep the devas in their high position, the humans getting by as humans do, the beasts laboring as beasts do, the homeless preta suffering in fear at the edge of hell, and the inhabitants of hell enslaved to pure immiseration.My feeling is that until the number of whole lives is greater than the number of shattered lives, we remain stuck in some kind of prehistory, unworthy of humanity s great spirit History as a story worth telling will only begin when the whole lives outnumber the wasted ones That means we have many generations to go before history begins All the inequalities must end all the surplus wealth must be equitably distributed Until then we are still only some kind of gibbering monkey, and humanity, as we usually like to think of it, does not yet exist To put it in religious terms, we are still indeed in the bardo, waiting to be born Still, it brought home to them yet again how insane their opponents were Ignorant fanatical disciples of a cruel desert cult, promised eternity in a paradise where sexual orgasm with beautiful houris lasted ten thousand years, no surprise they were so often suicidally brave, happy to die, reckless in frenzied opiated ways that were hard to counter Indeed they were known to be prodigious benzedrine eaters and opium smokers, pursuing the entire war in a jerky drugged dream state that could include bestial rage Versus Every sura of the Quran reminds us by its opening words Bismallah, in the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful Compassion, mercy how do we express that These are ideas that the Chinese do not have The Buddhists tried to introduce them there, and they were treated like beggars and thieves But they are crucial ideas, and they are central to Islam Ours is a vision of all people as one family, in the rule of compassion and mercy This is what drove Muhammad, driven by Allah or by his own sense of justice, the Allah inside us This is Islam to me That s what I fought for in the war These are the qualities we have to offer the world that the Chinese do not have Love, to put it simply Love Against all that, certainly, but for what What the Chinese were fighting for, Bai decided, was clarity, or whatever else it was that was the opposite of religion For humanity For compassion For Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism, the triple strand that did so well in describing a relationship to the world the religion with no God, with only this world, also several other potential realms of reality, mental realms, and the void itself, but no God, no shepherd ruling with the drooling strictures of a demented old patriarch, but rather innumerable immortal spirits in a vast panoply of realms and being, including humans and many other sentient beings besides, everything living, everything holy, sacred, part of the Godhead for yes, there was a GOD if by that you meant only a transcendent universal self aware entity that was reality itself, the cosmos, including everything, including human ideas and mathematical forms and relationships And I end up with this prescient quote They believed in a god of mercy, their Christ was all love and mercy Hard to tell that by what they did in Syria More info on it you may find here


  7. says:

    .What if the White European Christians had almost all died out in in the fourteenth century Kim Stanley Robinson has written an Alternative History that isn t steam punk, nor Nazis winning WW2.This is a smart, well constructed, work of historical inquiry that spans seven centuries without the assumed Caucasian and Christian historical domination There are a small cast of well constructed thoroughly human characters who live through those seven centuries in a very different Eurasia, Africa, and eventually the two Americas than the ones with which we, today, are familiar.These seven centuries are seen in the context of a traditional Buddhist cosmology This means that a handful of characters live, die, and are reborn through many lifetimes in different cultures, religions, genders, races, and even species They are almost always unaware of their past lives or their souls recurrent intentions And, most times, the reader is also left unaware of these links These individual karmic paths are not essential to the main intent of this book They are, however, fascinatingly traceable for the attentive reader And these paths very frequently and subtly reassemble groups, friendships, and love attachments through the centuries according to Buddhist karmic law If you read to love characters, you will be well rewarded following the labyrinths of karmic paths that separate souls and reunite them in new cultures and contexts.These seven centuries of Earth s history rewritten are presented to us in a manner that loves us as humans and souls while walking us through our seemingly eternal karmic traps of wars, domination, disappointments, betrayals, and redemptions.Of course, those historic scientific discoveries we all know are now reworked in new cultural contexts with different results This is the beauty of Alternative Histories But with this handful of sleepwalking souls reborn repeatedly in their own karmic cycles, this vast history of civilizations reconfigured takes on an unexpected intimacy.Enjoy this one.


  8. says:

    In retrospect, it s surprising that there aren t MORE fantasy novels about a group of people being reincarnated multiple times, with lives sprawling through a centuries long alternate history But, if there were, most all of them would not be as good as this.The reincarnation plot complete with matter of fact scenes set in the bardo between lives is an excellent way of tempering what would otherwise be a sometimes depressing plot Basically, the novel starts shortly after the Black Plague kills everyone in Europe, so world history is dominated by the interactions between China, Japan, Muslim cultures based in north Africa and Europe, and an alliance of Native Americans.It s certainly long, and the arc of history sometimes dominates the arc of narrative, and towards the end we get some multiple page lectures about theories of history But, overall, an excellent job.


  9. says:

    Rosado on the road.Description It is the fourteenth century and one of the most apocalyptic events in human history is set to occur the coming of the Black Death History teaches us that a third of Europe s population was destroyed But what if What if the plague killed 99 percent of the population instead How would the world have changed This is a look at the history that could have been a history that stretches across centuries, a history that sees dynasties and nations rise and crumble, a history that spans horrible famine and magnificent innovation These are the years of rice and salt.A carrot at the end of every chapter annoyed, yet teeth were gritted and the story proved immersive, mainly dealing with conscious re incarnation through the eons of human social history Picked the right time to tackle this one as Ramadan has just started in Real Life and I learned a lot Whilst on the subject of Rumi, he was mentioned with understandable reverence, DiCaprio is a not the best choice for that Sufi Persian poet by a long white chalk view spoiler Book information comes from wiki and acts as aide m moir to the audio file Book One, Awake to Emptiness, begins with Bold and Psin, scouts in Timur s army, discovering a Magyar village where all the inhabitants have died from a plague Timur turns his army around and orders the scouting party executed to avoid the plague, but Bold escapes and wanders through the dead lands of Eastern Europe encountering only one lone native Upon reaching the sea he is captured by Turkish Muslim slave traders and sold into Zheng He s Chinese treasure fleet Bold befriends a young African slave, named Kyu, whom he cares for after the Chinese castrate him In China, they are kept as kitchen slaves until escaping and eventually making their way north to Beijing where they find work at the palace of Zhu Gaozhi, heir to the Yongle Emperor The vengeful Kyu hates the Chinese for what they have done to him and he incites violence between the eunuchs and the Confucian administrative officials.Book Two, The Haj in the Heart, begins in Mughal India where a Hindu girl named Kokila poisons her husband s father and brother after discovering their plot to defraud the village She is executed for her crime, but is reborn as a tiger that befriends a man named Bistami, a Sufi mystic of Persian origin Bistami goes on to become a judge for Mughal Emperor Akbar, but later falls into his disfavour, being exiled to Mecca Bistami spends one year in Mecca before travelling overland to the Maghreb and Iberia Al Andalus Bistami then joins a caravan led by Sultan Mawji and his wife, Katima, who seek to leave Al Andalus and found a new city on the other side of the Pyrenees, beyond the control of the Caliph of Al Andalus They build the city of Baraka on the abandoned former site of Bayonne, France and create a model society in which Sultana Katima is highly influential Katima seeks to change the Islamic religion to create equality between men and women, by rejecting the Hadiths and relying only on her interpretation of the Quran She rules the community after her husband dies something not allowed in normal Islamic practice , but the Caliph of Al Andalus eventually hears of their heresy and sends an army against them The community flees further to the north.In Book Three, Ocean Continents, the Wanli Emperor launches an invasion against Nippon Japan but the huge fleet is swept out to sea by the Kuroshio Current and they are set adrift on the unexplored Pacific Ocean The fleet hopes to be brought back to China eventually by the great circular currents of the Pacific, but they accidentally discover the New World The sailors make landfall on the West coast of North America and make contact with the indigenous population the peaceful Miwok people , but quickly leave once Admiral Kheim discovers they have inadvertently infected the indigenous people with devastating diseases They take a small girl with them who they have taught Chinese and named Butterfly and sail south where they meet another civilization rich in gold There they narrowly escape being ritually sacrificed by using their flintlock firearms, something the natives have never seen before They eventually return to China and tell the Emperor that he could easily conquer this new land and gain its great wealth.Book Four, The Alchemist, takes place in Samarkand, in the 17th century An alchemist named Khalid, attempts to fool the Khan into believing that he has discovered the Philosopher s stone which supposedly can turn Lead into Gold , but his fraud is uncovered and his hand is chopped off as punishment Khalid becomes depressed and disenchanted with Alchemy the prevailing belief of the scholars of the time and decides to destroy all his Alchemical books which come to Samarkand via the trade routes from all over the known world However, his friends Iwang a Tibetan Buddhist mathematician and Bahram a Sufi blacksmith instead convince him to test the veracity of the claims in the books and thus see if there is any true wisdom to be gained They devote themselves to practical demonstrations and experiments that greatly improve knowledge of various aspects of physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, and weaponry, and in the process create the scientific method Their discoveries create interest and alarm amongst the religious madrasahs of the city, many of whom also go along with the new fashion of building and testing scientific apparatuses But most of all, they catch the eye of the Khan s powerful advisor, who sees in their inventions the possibility of great military technology, to fight the rising Chinese threat to the East.Book Five, Warp and Weft, describes how a former Samurai, fleeing from Japan which was conquered by China along with most of the rest of East Asia to the New World, travels all the way across the continent to meet the Iroquois people They name him From West and make him a chief of their confederacy He helps organize their society into a larger defensive alliance of all the North American tribes the Hodenosaunee League and shows them how to make their own guns with which to resist the Chinese coming from the West and the Muslims coming from the East.Book Six, Widow Kang, follows the life of Chinese widow Kang Tongbi during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor She takes in a poor Buddhist monk, Bao Ssu, and his son whom she finds scavenging, but the monk is wrongly implicated in a series of queue cuttings and is killed by Qing magistrates Later, Kang meets a Hui Muslim scholar named Ibrahim ibn Hasam and together they discover it is possible to remember their past lives They marry and move to Lanzhou in western China, where they undertake work to try to reconcile Islamic and Confucian beliefs Kang creates and collects works of proto feminist poetry and becomes a known writer There is a Muslim rebellion in the region due to the Qing intolerance of new Islamic sects coming from the west, but the revolt is crushed with massive force.Book Seven Seven, The Age of Great Progress, is set during the 19th century and begins during a war between the Ottoman Empire and the Indian state of Travancore The Indians have previously defeated the Mughals and the Safavids and have developed modern forms of warfare, emphasising surprise and mobility, they have also invented Steam engines and Ironclad warships which they sail straight to the city of Konstantiniyye and capture it with the aid of military balloons The Ottomans are defeated easily A Muslim Armenian doctor named Ismail ibn Mani al Dir, who had served the Ottoman Sultan, is captured and sent to Travancore where he learns of the amazing advancements that have been made on the sub continent such as railways and factories He happily joins the hospital of Travancore and begins work in anatomy and physiology Ismail eventually meets their ruler, the Kerala of Travancore, who pursues scientific and philosophical advancement a kind of Enlightened Despot The Kerala s aim is to drive the Muslim invaders away and peacefully unify India into a kind of democratic confederation Later, during the Xianfeng Emperor s reign, in the Chinese colony known as Gold Mountain, major flooding in the Central Valley of California forces the evacuation of Chinese colonial towns and Japanese settlers alike The Japanese had originally fled to the new world to escape Chinese oppression in their homeland, but find themselves once again under the Chinese yoke A displaced Japanese slave, Kiyoaki, and a pregnant Chinese refugee, Peng ti, manage to flee to the great coastal city of Fangzhang There Kiyoaki joins a secret Japanese freedom movement which is being aided by Travancore, with Ismail acting as a go between agent.Book Eight, War of the Asuras, is set in the 20th century, during the Long War The world has become divided into three large alliances, the Chinese Empire and its colonies, the fractured Muslim world Dar al Islam , and the democratic Indian and Hodenosaunee Leagues At the outbreak of war the Muslim states put aside their differences and unite to flight the larger threat of China whom they fear will soon achieve global hegemony The Indian and Hodenosaunee Leagues stay neutral at first, but eventually ally with China, as they see the Muslims as their greater enemy, however the Muslims invade northern India all the way down to Burma to stop the Indians and Chinese from linking up The war drags on for decades causing major changes in the societies involved, with rapid industrialisation, mass conscription and mass casualties both sides are forced to use women in the fighting to make up for manpower losses Being the first industrial war, new devastating weapons and methods are employed, such as trench warfare, poison gas and aerial bombing The story follows Chinese officers, Kuo, Bai and Iwa as they desperately fight in the trenches of the Gansu Corridor, where the ground has been blasted down to bedrock by sixty years of bombardments the latest massive artillery pieces lob shells into space on ballistic trajectories The new Chinese government, the Fourth Assemblage of Military Talent the Qing Dynasty having been overthrown by a military coup during the war orders a new offensive against the Muslim lines in Gansu Kuo, Bai and Iwa are told to use poison gas and then frontally assault the enemy trenches They do this successfully, but are then beaten back by the second line of Muslim defences, losing tens of thousands of soldiers and gaining nothing However they are then told that their attack was merely a diversion for the real offensive which is being conducted by the Japanese who have recently been freed by China in exchange for alliance in the war through Siberia The Muslims are in retreat but the Japanese get bogged down at the Ural Mountains In the meantime, Kuo is killed by a shell which penetrates their bunker, Bai and Iwa are then ordered to move with their company south through Tibet to support their Indian allies At a pass in the Himalayas they witness the Muslim artillery blasting the top of Mount Everest down so that the tallest mountain in the world will be in Muslim lands After extreme difficulties they manage to breach the Muslim defences at the pass and the Chinese army pours through to meet up with the Indians, turning the course of the war in their favour However Bai is plagued by visions of his dead friend Kuo, who tells him that none of this is happening and that he is already dead, killed by the shell earlier Bai does not know whether he is indeed living real life or is already in the afterlife.Book Nine, Nsara, follows the life of a young Muslim woman named Budur and her aunt Idelba in Europe, in the aftermath of the Long War Budur s family is highly traditional and as there are not enough men left after the war for marriage prospects, she is forced to live in seclusion with her female cousins in the family s compound in Turi, a city in one of the Alpine Emirates Idelba is an educated woman and was involved in physics research in Firanja before her husband s death, she is just as unhappy in Turi as Budur and wishes to return to her former work One night, Idelba escapes and Budur follows her Together they leave the life of captivity in the Alps and move to the liberal and cosmopolitan city of Nsara Saint Nazaire in France There they stay at a zawiyya, a refuge for women, Idelba restarts her work in physics and Budur enrols in university where she studies history The history class is presided over by Kirana, a radical feminist lecturer who questions everything about Muslim society Budur becomes close to Kirana who opens her eyes to the injustices that women face and how they can seek emancipation and liberation the two have a brief affair Life at the university allows for open debate about all issues and Kirana focuses on the nature of history and contemporary events, such as the Muslim defeat in the Long War, which she blames on the failure of the Islamic countries to properly mobilize women for the war effort something which the Chinese did almost totally There is also a newfound interest in ancient history as the field of archaeology is taking off theories about how and why the plague killed off the Europeans centuries before are a popular topic.Book Ten, The First Years, follows Bao Xinhua who moves to the west coast of Yingzou after witnessing the assassination of his friend, and revolutionary, Kung Jianguo He marries and raises two children before accepting a diplomatic post in Bangladesh In his later years, he moves back to Fangzhang to teach history and the philosophy of history hide spoiler


  10. says:

    Now there is nothing left to doBut scribble in the dusk and watch with the belovedPeach blossoms float downstream.Looking back at all the long yearsAll that happened this way and thatI think I liked most the rice and the salt. The Years of Rice and Salt is a thick, dense alternate history spanning continents and centuries Its vast cast of characters includes, as the blurb puts it, soldiers and kings, explorers and philosophers, slaves and scholars Through their eyes we see the forces that shape their world, which develops in strange and yet intriguingly familiar ways through the centuries That description to me sounds like a roadmap to Boredsville, and though I d heard good things about this one, part of me was expecting a plodding, dry tome focused on history s big machine and prominent personalities than on any relatable human drama Normally I d avoid that sort of thing like the plague which, incidentally, is where the book diverges from our reality Here, instead of killing a third of Europe s population, the Black Death kills 99% White people are or less nonexistent, Christianity is a footnote, and China and the Muslim nations have become the dominant powers shaping world history In ten sections, the book takes us from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century, and from China and India to the European wastelands and the New World It is not only emphatically unboring, it s one of the most ambitious and stunning novels I ve read in a long time The book is structured around its Hindu Buddhist conceit, following the same set of characters through several incarnations as they struggle to evolve and pursue nirvana Though their races and genders and occasionally species morph through time, they fill similar roles in every avatar The character whose name starts with K is disaffected, angry, an iconoclast often tortured or martyred for hir idealism, whether as a mutinous slave, a radical feminist, or a hotheaded scientist K s foil is B, hir friend or partner but rarely lover who is the hopeful, pragmatic and effective of the pair it is B who is usually the POV character Then there is I, who is usually a scholar or a mystic, and romantic partner to either B or K And S, who is a dick, always antagonizing the other characters which they get pretty pissed about in the bardo between incarnations, when they remember who they have been in other lives And you K roared What is your EXCUSE Why are you always so bad Consistency is no excuse, your CHARACTER is NO EXCUSE In this way, the book avoids one of my main frustrations with sprawling epics like this the lack of developed characters with an arc to get really invested in Though the setting changes, here we re essentially following the same handful of people throughout history And they do develop as themselves, but they also stand in for all of us Whether you believe in reincarnation or not, the story of humanity is the story of generation after generation striving to avoid the mistakes of the past and achieve the closest thing to perfection it is within our power to attain And none of us ever gets there, but every new generation picks up the baton and gives it a shot anyway B Come on, you can t deny it We keep coming back We keep going out again Everybody does That s dharma We keep trying We keep making progress Here we are Here to be sent back again, sent back together, our little jati I don t know what I would do without all of you I think the solitude would kill me. K You re killed anyway. B Yes, but it s less lonely this way And we re making a difference No, we are Look at what has happened You can t deny it K Things were done It s not very much. B Of course You said it yourself, we have thousands of lifetimes of work to do But it s working. K Don t generalize It could all slip away. B Of course But back we go, to try again Each generation makes its fight A few turns of the wheel Come on back with a will Back into the fray And so, through genocides and world wars, injustice and devastation, these characters reveal their world to us as they endeavor, in small ways, to improve it They make scientific discoveries, write influential books, build egalitarian societies, thwart wrongs large and small Each section is told in a different style, which brings to mind Cloud Atlas something several people pointed out to me when I described the book, though the two actually strike me as very different Cloud Atlas is about the repetition of themes across time, the connectedness of everything Rice and Salt is about the impact of history on human lives and vice versa, and the will to evolve Strangely, it also reminded me of Neal Stephenson s Anathem, another unexpectedly engrossing, satisfying philosophical SF tome alternate universe rather than alternate history, though really, there s not much difference between the two I felt the same way reading both books that thrill of having discovered something precious and perfect There s plenty in here to satisfy different interests a vast and well developed alternate history, an intriguing cast of characters, a crash course in some tenets of Eastern spirituality, a meditation on the human condition, an array of metafictional highwire tricks, and ten ripping good stories Highly recommended.


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