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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.
33 of 35 people found this review 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.
10 of 10 people found this review helpful
Not sure I'd recommend this book but I did enjoy it. There's no real book long plot, except perhaps in pretty vague terms, but the glimpses into different periods in this alternate history are varied and generally interesting. It can be pretty hard to keep track of who's who throughout the book, probably easier in the printed version, but even if you figure it out most stories feel pretty separate from the previous ones.
It's not a rip roaring adventure but if you enjoy thoughtful, introspective books it's worth a listen.
Loved it. It was really fascinating and quite a unique read. Will definitely have to read more of Robinson's work.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Bronson Pinchot skilfully narrates this pionent, beautiful, intelligent book. I highly recomend this alternate world.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful