Book : Alaska (1988)
Author: James A. Michener
Genre : Historical, Adventure
Pages : 1073
Cost : Rs.206 (Infibeam)
GR8 Meter: 8/8 YES
Pages: 1073 Days: 245 Name: Alaska Author: James A. Michener This is an epic review about an epic novel.
I desperately wanted to read an adventure book, and I researched and found an author James Albert Michener, and when I researched his works, I found an epic, which I thought will give me immense pleasure, and I ordered his 18th Novel “Alaska” which was first published in 1988. Order went through Infibeam and I received my book on 29th Dec 2011, and one fine day 5th Jan 2012 I started reading it, and I lost in the wonderful world of Alaska. As I depicted in my earlier reviews that Alaska, the 49th and biggest (in area) and northernmost state of USA, always attracted me, hence I read 2 books already belonging to the reason, 1 is still remain to read, so I ordered this one too. Today, i.e. 5th Sept 2012 I completed this epic novel taking total of 245 days to complete it (it was a very low average for me, since I use to read it slowly, then only you can enjoy each and every adventure of the book) and now it counts as my 2nd complete epic read after ‘Lord of the Rings’. I owned ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ too but it still hanging in between.
For some info, Alaska stands 1st in area out of 50 states of US, and comes on 47th number in terms of population. US purchased it from Russia on March 30, 1867 for $7.2 million (2 cents per acre) and it attained statehood on 3rd Jan, 1959.It was earlier connected to Russian mainland which is now separated by Bering Strait, after rise of sea-water. There cross an international Date Line which cuts exactly between the two Diomede Islands – Big Diomede (belongs to Russia) also knows as Tommorrow island and Little Diomede (belongs to USA) also known as Yesterday Isle, the time difference between these two minutely separated island is 20 hrs. The capital of Alaska is Juneau and biggest city is Anchorage, and Barrow is the northernmost city of Alaska and US. The highest temperatue (37.8 C) in Alaska is recorded at Fort Yukon on 27 Jun, 1915 (it is also recorded as lowest high temperature tied with Hawaii in the whole USA), and the lowest temperature (-62.2 C) is recored at Prospect Creek on 23 Jan, 1971. Highest elevation point is Mt.Mckinley aka Denali, which stands at 20320 ft.
The book I owned is 1073 pages long and divided over 12 chapters, and is published by ‘The Random House Publishing Group’, you can say that the 12 chapters are actually 12 small novels and every chapter is linked with each other but still the story in one chapter seems complete. That is one of the best parts of this book. This book traverse the history of Alaska right from the start of land appearing till the date when the book was written, and each chapter comprises of each activity which stands important in development of Alaska. Following are the details-:
- The Clashing Terranes – It is the smallest chapter of novel, and it tells about the formation of North American continent. How the once connected with Asia landmark (which is later known as Alaska) came in existence. No characters were introduced here.
- The Ice Castle – this chapter is written in a format that you felt like reading ‘Ice Age’. How the mammals, mammoths, saber-toothed crossed into Alaska from Siberia using the land bridge is covered here, and it tells the story of a mammoth Mastadon and Matriarch, as they encountered first men.
- People of the North – It tells the story of first inhabitants of this vast icy land of Alaska – the Eskimos, led by Oogruk and family, who crossed from Asia to Alaska, when they were facing poverty and hunger, and it also brought the concept of Shamans, the magic leaders of tribe who can see future.
- The Explorers – It tells the story of explorers who navigated to this mass of land in their ships, and a wonderful explanation of their journeys, explorers like Vitus Bering, Tsar Peter the great, and Trofim Zhadanko.
- The Duel – It tells about the exploitation of native people by Russian rulers who owned the land, taking away all men to hunt on boats, and women have to work for themselves. It also brings the earlier conflict between modern Christianity, and decreasing ancient Shamanism. It tells the story of a native girl Cidaq who later married to a Christian priest. This chapter preach Christianity somewhat which I personally didn’t like, but it is truth – the missionaries.
- Lost Worlds – It bring out the clashes between the Russians and the natives, tells about the Battle of Sitka, it traverses the life of Father Vasili Voronov to the interiors of Alaska, and it ends with selling Alaska to US by the Russian government.
- Giants in Chaos – It shows the clashes between two different types of character – one who follows rule and want good of Alaskan natives – Capt Michael Healy and the other – who just want to trade, and introduced spirits to the natives, making their lives hell – Capt Emil Schransky. It also bring outs the first effect of American govt maladministration of the land.
- Gold – It deals with the historical event of Alaskan Gold Rush, where so many dwellers from the lower 48 (states) rushed to Alaska in hunt of Gold, including the Venn family, John Klope and many others.
- The Golden Beaches of Nome – It tells the story of Tom Venn as appointed head of Ross & Raglan associates which dealt in Salmon fisheries and Missy Peckham who came to Alaska to get some gold, and instead end up by putting shop for gold-diggers.
- Salmon – it’s a beautiful story covering two aspects – 1. It covers story of a salmon fish named Nerka, its journey from birth till its death when he swim to inland waters and died while falling from a waterfall but also felt love with a she-salmon and 2. It covers a story of Salmon Industry setup on Taku Inlet which is administered by Tom Venn ‘Ross & Raglan’, when they employed Chinese workers, and who created nuisances, their head named Ah Ting. Also it covers the love triangle between Tom, his boss Ross’s daughter Lydia and a native daughter of Sam Bigears named Nancy, ended on Tom marrying Lydia after the death of Lydia’s mother in a sea storm.
- The Railbelt – It tells the story about populating a Matanuska valley by immigrants from Minnesota, when government offers the poor farmers a choice to move to Alaska, where they will get everything free and they can rear their own fields. In comes the Flatch family, with LeRoy Flatch becoming a bush pilot and his sister Flossie becoming an animal-lover. It also cover the fighting between Japan and US over the islands of Alaska.
- The Rim of Fire – this is the last and biggest chapter of the book (164 pgs) where all the characters or their following generations interacted with each other (its author’s style of writing), and it tells about the big money flow in Alaska because of Prudhoe Bay oil fields, which give many lawyers a big hunch of money. Many including Missy Peckham fight with government for the right s of Alaska to get statehood for it, and many fight against it (including Venn family). The corrupt lawyers like Poley Markham succeeded while good ones like Jeb Keeler not. It also shared the life story of a teacher Kendra Scott who came to Alaska to see the life of Eskimos. Plus some side stories were also there. The novel ended on a perfect note, gave me a wet eye over 3-4 chapters.
All chapters are unique in them and connect all the chapters so beautifully, that while reading you felt like you’re a part of it. Well-researched, easy language and what a writing by James Michener, who is famous for writing so many such type of historical fiction, many of which basically related with different land-masses. His other famous books are ‘Tales of the South Pacific’, ‘Hawaii’, ‘Caribbean’, ‘Caravans’, ‘Texas’, ‘Poland’ etc. He was born in Pennysylvania and died in Texas at an age of 90. Many of his works are epic like this one, and I am next ordering ‘Hawaii’ of his works. Here, he also provided a 2 pg ‘Fact and Fiction’ section, where he summarize chapter-by-chapter that what is real fact and what he added on his own in each chapters. You can compare and come to know what are you reading, but all majorly developments and happenings are real. A map of Alaskan surroundings is also provided at the starting of book, where you can see different landmasses covered in the book. Only negative part I found for the book is ‘ITS NOT FOR EVERYONE’, but only for serious readers like me. Many characters and historical events I missed in description, to get the feel, it is required to read the book, it is so vast, covers a vast span of time.
I will recommend this book with a 8/8 rating, since I enjoyed it fully, its full of adventure, feeling and story, where every chapter ends on a perfect note, and can be adapted as different movies. I felt like I lived in Alaska by reading the book, do check it out.
Jai Raam ji ki:)