The Years of Rice and Salt

Suman Palit has written more about the I3-Axis, describing how already the countries in the region are moving towards greater economic cooperation. He then takes flight into political poetry, describing an intoxicating meme :

Imagine a network of nation-states from the Caspian to the South China seas, united in economic purpose, bound by fundamental social principles of democracy, self-governance and individual freedoms.

The Years of Rice and SaltThere�s another version of this same meme suffused through the recent science fiction novel by Kim Stanley Robinson, called "The Years of Rice and Salt" (disclaimer: I am an Amazon affiliate)

The premise is that the Great Plague of Europe wiped out 90% of the population there instead of merely 30%. This is not a "look how great things would be if not for those smarmy whities" kind of book, it�s more of an expression of "parallel history". The world that evolves, as KSR imagines it, is fascinating and eminently plausible, and yet arguably not better or worse than ours. For example, a world war does develop, but more as an inter-civilizational conflict between China and Islam (personally, I think Huntington should have looked at this instead of Islam vs. the West, because the West and Islam share Abrahamic roots - they are really cousins. China is the true Other). Their world war lasts sixty years instead of being two smaller conflicts.

By far the most appealing thing (to me, given my ethnic background) is the rise of the Travancori League, which is the Indian civilization�s contribution to the world stage. This book is worth reading for that alone, because in many ways it describes something akin to the I3 Axis.

This book is full of hope, and philosophical insight into history and human nature. Its the best science fiction novel I have read in years.

And wait till you see the narrative device the author uses to bridge the centuries! two words : "karmic jati". Its brilliant. Pay attention to the starting letters of the characters' names!

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