Kingsley Amis’s The Alteration is one of alternate history’s most notable texts. As with many British books, its concerns are largely centered on Old Albion, particularly what the Isles would have been like were the Reformation never to have occurred. A wonderfully-imagined possible intersection of religion, politics, and culture, one can’t help but wonder the degree of its influence on Kim Stanley Robinson’s 2002 alternate history The Years of Rice and Salt. A book that likewise pivots religious concerns on a single point in history, Robinson removes Christianity and Judaism from the scene to focus on the two major religions that remain, Islam and Buddhism. Published in the wake of 9-11, Robinson forgoes finger-pointing to build something of his re-aligned, Asiatic world.
The first two major iterations of monotheism eliminated, The Years of Rice and Salt posits a Jonbar point wherein Black Death wipes out 99% of Christendom and Judaism in Europe. In essence laying out the red carpet for Islam to expand westwards and China eastwards, Robinson revisions the world to be dominated by these two major powers. Not wholly a dichotomy, Hindustani India retains a toehold, and without invading Europeans, so too does the Native American population. (Given extra years without European invasion to disrupt the relative cultural and technological homogeneity, Robinson envisions the tribes forming a loose but stable coalition that evolves to a point it becomes a global player politically and commercially—an interesting aspect, indeed.)