The Years of Rice and Salt

By Kim Stanley Robinson

Imagine that the Black Plague in Europe in the late Middle Ages killed not 30% of the European population, but 99%.  Modern history, politics, economics, and global culture as a whole would be completely different.  Europe and Europeans would be completely absent from the world stage.  Which nations would be the “Great Powers”?  Would there even be nations?  Would we have “Western” science and technology?  Which religions would be prevalent?

This is a speculative alternative history of the world spanning many centuries, in which Buddhism and Islam are the most widespread religions, Christianity is a historical footnote, light-skinned and light-haired Europeans are extremely rare curiosities, and human life goes on in all its exhilarating and agonizing complexity.  This is a superb read for anyone with an interest in history.