The Years of Rice and Salt


I’m reviewing this now, despite not finishing it, because it was a loaner from my library and they have since moved digital library providers so it’s unlikely I will get it again.

Described as an alternate history where the Black Death wipes out 99% of the European population instead of just a third. In that void, other cultures fill in the gaps and make the discoveries instead.

What it amounts to is a piecemeal breakdown of historical inventions, from philosophy to mathematics, technology and geography, and how they happened without Europe being around.

China discovers the Americas, for example, and the Moors aren’t ejected from Spain. Muslim scholars make numerous advancements (as they did). Africa is left to flourish without colonial intervention.

The plot is tethered to a series of shifting characters who are reincarnated, usually unknowingly, into each scenario (generally as people, sometimes as animals).

There doesn’t seem to be any underlying drive so we end up with a series of separate vignettes that don’t form a coherent story with any goals or development.

I only reached the mid-point, and simply elected not to take it out again as it simply wasn’t very engaging. Nice concept, just not executed very well.

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Reviewed: 31st December 2018