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The Years of Rice and Salt Audiobook, by Kim Stanley Robinson Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Kim Stanley Robinson Narrator: Bronson Pinchot Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: May 2015 ISBN: 9781483098494
5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 5.00 (2 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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It is the fourteenth 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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Quotes & Awards

  • “Award-winning author Kim Stanley Robinson delivers a thoughtful and powerful examination of cultures and the people who shape them…The credible alternate history that Robinson constructs becomes the framework for a tapestry of ideas about philosophy, science, theology, and politics.”, editorial review

  • “Having revolutionized the novel of planetary exploration with his Nebula- and Hugo-winning Mars trilogy, Robinson is attempting to do the same to another genre with this highly realistic and credible alternate history…[Robinson] has created a novel of ideas of the best sort, filled to overflowing with philosophy, theology, and scientific theory.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Robinson’s story encompasses familiar parallels: the discovery of the Americas, religious strife and cultural breakthroughs, political tyranny and devastating world war, scientific renaissance, technological wonders, and the pursuit of happiness. Though this world is vast and complex, its history is experienced by readers on a human scale, learned through the colorful and vivid tales of individual people…This is an addictive, surprising, and suspenseful novel about characters and a world whose fate comes to matter considerably to readers.”

    Library Journal

  • “This vast, magisterial novel is Robinson’s most ambitious effort at alternate history, a work on a scale as large as Harry Turtledove employs…Brilliantly conceived.”


  • “Blessed with moments of wry and gentle beauty as friends and antagonists rediscover each other under different guises in exotically dangerous locales.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Hugo winner Robinson follows three characters over seven centuries on an alternate Earth in which Islam and Buddhism are the dominant religions…Blessed with moments of wry and gentle beauty as friends and antagonists rediscover each other under different guises in exotically dangerous locales.”

    Kirkus Reviews

Listener Reviews

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  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dr. Brook | 1/3/2021

    " This book is endlessly interesting, beginning to end. It follows many characters and lives over the chapters. It follows a time period from the 600s AD to 2002 (which was in the future when the book was written). It has some novel, perhaps shocking themes. One of its basic assumptions is that reincarnation exists and that people reincarnate in groups (known as 'jahtis'). In every group, one person is the "Monkey," or the person who is trying to help others. Part of the "hook" of the novel is trying to identify the Monkey in each life story. Reincarnation is something of a slightly scandalous concept to a Westerner, so there is also an element of shock as well as newness to the book. The book describes a world in which Christians have been eliminated by a plague. What is left are the Muslims and Buddhists with a sprinkling of other religions tossed in for good measure. Kim Stanley Robinson fleshes this world out through the eyes of his characters, rather than through narrative. It leaves the reader playing catchup from time to time. The book emphasizes China and Chinese culture, which is instructive to Westerners. He makes distinctions that I certainly did not have before reading/listening to this book. I did not know that Han Chinese are the majority in China with 56 minorities listed. Since Robinson's book begins with Mongols, the reader/listener gets to know them first. I happen to appreciate books that teach me something I didn't know before, and The Years of Rice and Salt certainly has done that. Given that China is, once again, becoming a world power, I think this is a very timely book to read/listen to. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dr. Brook | 12/26/2020

    " This book is wonderful. It taught me more about reincarnation than I had ever known. It is a series of stories about people (and animal) who are in the same jahti (sort of like a reincarnation family). They play various roles: the angry, rebellious member, the monkey (who is always trying to save everyone) and more. It is entertaining and oh, so informative. "

About the Author

Kim Stanley Robinson is a bestselling author and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. He is the author of more than twenty books, including the bestselling Mars trilogy and the critically acclaimed Forty Signs of Rain, The Years of Rice and Salt, and 2312. In 2008, he was named a “Hero of the Environment” by Time magazine, and he works with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute. For his book Antarctica, he was sent to the Antarctic by the US National Science Foundation as part of their Antarctic Artists and Writers’ Program.

About the Narrator

Bronson Pinchot, Audible’s Narrator of the Year for 2010, has won Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Awards, AudioFile Earphones Awards, Audible’s Book of the Year Award, and Audie Awards for several audiobooks, including Matterhorn, Wise Blood, Occupied City, and The Learners. A magna cum laude graduate of Yale, he is an Emmy- and People’s Choice-nominated veteran of movies, television, and Broadway and West End shows. His performance of Malvolio in Twelfth Night was named the highlight of the entire two-year Kennedy Center Shakespeare Festival by the Washington Post. He attended the acting programs at Shakespeare & Company and Circle-in-the-Square, logged in well over 200 episodes of television, starred or costarred in a bouquet of films, plays, musicals, and Shakespeare on Broadway and in London, and developed a passion for Greek revival architecture.