The Years of Rice and Salt

  • by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Narrated by Bronson Pinchot
  • 25 hrs and 56 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

It is the 14th 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 the plague had 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.
This is a universe where the first ship to reach the New World travels across the Pacific Ocean from China and colonization spreads from west to east. This is a universe where the Industrial Revolution is triggered by the world's greatest scientific minds - in India. This is a universe where Buddhism and Islam are the most influential and practiced religions, and Christianity is merely a historical footnote.
Through the eyes of soldiers and kings, explorers and philosophers, slaves and scholars, Robinson renders an immensely rich tapestry. Rewriting history and probing the most profound questions as only he can, Robinson shines his extraordinary light on the place of religion, culture, power, and even love on such an Earth. From the steppes of Asia to the shores of the Western Hemisphere, from the age of Akbar to the present and beyond, here is the stunning story of the creation of a new world.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful


This book starts out as a very good story and somewhere along the way has me thinking of how to appreciate each day anew. What a fantastic thing. I was at a low spot in my life and contemplating this book and its central ideas have proved uplifting.
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- dm

Robinson's best; Pinchot's usual excellence

I run hot and cold on the novels of Kim Stanley Robinson, finding some of them unbearable and pretentious, others sublime, and most somewhere in between. This book represents the sublime end of my own personal Kim Stanley Robinson spectrum. Those familiar with some of his short fiction and essays are probably aware of his deep and abiding interest in the theory and practice of historical narrative. This interest is subtly woven through the sweeping, centuries-spanning plot of this book, enhancing its depth and texture without getting in the way. In other novels, the spiritual proclivities of some of Robinson's characters ring false; here those same proclivities are present, but feel much more credible and sincere. This has less to do with the characters themselves (the Khalid of this book is clearly the same person as the Galileo of "Galileo's Dream") than with the narrative context in which they find themselves.

The story begins around 1400, when advance scouts from the army of Timur (known to us as Tamerlane the Great) enter Eastern Europe (in our timeline Timur never made it further west than Smyrna on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean). The scouts discover that everyone, EVERYONE, in Europe has died of the plague. Western civilization is gone. From this premise, the narrative extends into the 21st or 22nd century, though of course no one is using the Julian Calendar. More can't be revealed without spoilers, but suffice it to say that despite the timescale, there is a surprising degree of continuity.

I read this book when it first appeared in print, and was very pleased to get a chance to revisit it in audio format, especially in the hands of so capable and versatile a reader as Bronson Pinchot. He doesn't disappoint. Even if you don't ordinarily like Kim Stanley Robinson, you may want to give this one a try.
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- Alex Levine

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-07-2015
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.