Sunday, May 27, 2007

the years of rice and salt (part two)

I finally finished The Years of Rice and Salt. It is not a bad read. As the book went on, you get a better sense of how history progressed differently in Robinson's universe. Also, there are characters who spell out some of the political, religious, anthropological and literary ideas which seem to have inspired the work as a whole. I think I understand why the novel got more interesting in the second half but I still wish the flow were more even throughout. Firstly, it makes sense that close to the point of divergence (the Black Death) the world of the novel would be very close to our own and that differences would only be more evident as the centuries passed. Secondly, as a way of depicting the progress of human thought, the more intellectual characters (historians, activists and social scientists who pontificate about past events, human nature and the state of society) tend to be clumped later in the novel. I would say that the second half of the novel was more interesting but also more didactic and that the book might have been more effective if some of the ideas were introduced earlier, or perhaps illustrated through plot and action.

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