In Other Words A Book Review by Mark Pintar


Alaska by James A. Michener

Alaska by James A. Michener

Not known for his brevity, James Michener doesn't disappoint lovers of historical fiction with his novel, Alaska. This nearly 1100 page book is no quick read (I've been working on it since early December and still have 200 pages to go). Michener covers Alaska's history from the time of floating land masses crashing into each other to form mountain ranges, to the present, blending fictional characters with historical figures, (and even providing a clarification of which is which.)

This journey begins with mountains erupting from the earth, follows the mastodons and mammoths, and journeys with early emigrants from eastern Asia to this seemingly bleak, heartless landscape. He follows the exploration of the region by the Russians, English, and Americans. By telling stories of individuals and their struggles to survive, explore, and tame this land, he helps us understand and experience the reality of life in a true frontier. Though sometimes brutal and violent, this novel allows us to experience the gold rush, salmon canneries, and the nearly-forgotten role of Alaska in World War II. I am looking forward to statehood and modern-day Alaska.

Michener shows how human beings, though often ignorant, foolish, and rarely politically correct, can learn to exist and even thrive in the most extreme conditions. It shows the lasting beauty and endurance of nature and God's creation despite humankind's attempts to "tame" it. But mostly it shows that in order to really live in peace, we must appreciate and respect the unique characteristics of each other and the world around us.

I would not recommend Alaska to anyone looking for a light read, but for those seeking a well-researched adventure about the best and worst of humankind, Alaska has what it takes to capture both the reader's imagination and heart.

--- © 2002, In Other Words, A Book Review by Mark Pintar

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