Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Years of Rice and Salt

by Kim Stanley Robinson

This is an interesting tale on two levels. The basic milieu is an alternate reality--a world in which the Black Death killed off three times the number of Europeans than it did in our world, 99% of the total population. The role that European nations played in world history is now taken by other nations, other cultures. Mr. Robinson postulates the rise of Chinese and Islamic empires that create a history that only vaguely reflects our own. The other premise that makes this novel worth reading (and rereading) is that reincarnation is real. We follow the lead characters from life to life, with a brief scene in the bardo between incarnations. I suppose there might be some spiritual/philosophical insights in the tale, but to be honest, I was too busy enjoying the variety of stories as the characters progressed through a new and intriguing history. Oh, well, it's a good excuse to keep this one on my shelf so I can pull it down for another read someday.

LibraryThing link

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Monday, June 08, 2009

Cry, the Beloved Country

by Alan Paton

My words could never do justice to this story of the search of Rev. Steven Kumalo, a Zulu man, for his son Absalom in the streets of 1940s Johannesburg. It's sheer poetry, a deep look at racial prejudice and injustice but also truth and hope. Get a copy and read it already.

It's already on my shelf.
LibraryThing link

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Time Scout

by Robert Asprin and Linda Evans

This one's a run-of-the-mill time agent story, in this case the agents are tour guides. In this tale, an experiment gone wrong has resulted in wormholes through time, linking past and present locations. Entrepreneurs have capitalized on the wormholes--called "gates" at their present day end--offering tours of the past to those wealthy enough to afford the trip. Of course, before there can be any thoughts of tourists or tours, someone has to check out these past eras, to set up places for the tourists to arrive, to arrange accommodations and generally discover an itinerary for their trip. That's the job of a time scout, to go into a new gate and get the lay of the land. It's a difficult and demanding profession. Not one that promises a long and prosperous future. The smart (and lucky) ones retire early and opt for less dangerous professions. Such is the case of Kenneth Carson. As one of the most famous time scouts, he's now the owner of a small hotel in a time terminal. It's a quiet life, at least until a young woman shows up at his doorstep, asking that he train her to be a time scout. Carson's attempts to convince her otherwise before she runs off into the past and gets herself killed make up the tale. It's an entertaining read, good for killing an afternoon or two.

To be honest, it's only good waiting room material.
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