The Years of Rice and Salt

Posted by : atcampbell | On : October 21, 2003

The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson

We had ten people for this book plus one email review, all at StrangeHurst House. Although 8 people started the book only 4 people finished. Five people had read KSR before, mostly his Mars trilogy.

The book follows 3 souls through several incarnations in an alternate world where the Black Plague killed off most of the Europeans. Using the “bardo,” an in-between-incarnations waiting room, to separate the different lives helped the souls and the reader to review and separate each life. The episodic nature of the novel helped one reader navigate the great length of the book.

Those who did read to the end enjoyed the book and its speculations, especially the technology of the “future” years. The finishers found the style rich with the changing characters allowing a neat exploration of motivations.

Most everyone agreed the book was too darn long with more detail than was needed. Most of the non-finishers felt the book lacked ACTION. One reader said she got to page 200 then lost her will to read. Another person would have cut 400 of the 900+ pages. A Cliff Notes edition was suggested.

A few readers disagreed with the author’s re-vision of history, arguing that more than a single change was needed to really change history. We quibbled over bits of the plot.

Afterwards several people had dinner at the Mongolian Grille.

— Judy Strange