For book lovers who want to be involved with a book for the long haul, Michener's Alaska is a good introductory book to the author whose lengthy novels close to 1000 pages are legendary. Starting with pre-history including geologicals, Michener's prose is daunting only for the first few pages. Be prepared to settle in over an expose of thousands years to the near present day, as Michener weaves fact with historical characters and archeology along with idealized fictional characters who are shockingly real. His fiction is true to the historical and environmental setting.
Michener specialized in time periods and successive colonizing groups over the Bering Strait land mass, and includes a detailed look at the Athapascan, Eskimo, and Aleutian native settlement of the area. Realistically detailed are the severe artic conditions and environmental adaptations of these native groups. Sweeping from ancient times to the old seafaring days, Michener brings to life famous mariners such as James Cook, and the true story of Michael Healy, a unique figure as one of the few African American seacaptains of his day who battles pirating, exploitation of the seal and otter populations for their fur and skins, rum-running. Included is a biopic of the Russian settlement of Sitka, the first capital, and the exploits of Vitus Bering, whose daring ocean voyages first charted the new continent.
Painstakingly, Michener builds his story into the present day, but not before he examines the nitty-gritty details of the first Gold Rush to the Yukon, including the sea routes, seasonal challenges, and every day living issues of those in early frontier settlements. He discusses the building of the railroad, the salmon industry, and the Japanese invasion of the Aleut Island chain in the Second World War.
This book is a great educational tool for anyone who wants to learn the lazy way, as Michener piles on the facts from all perspectives: geography of the mountain ranges, histories, and the politics of each successive era including key legislation. Michener was a great story teller and a prolific writer. Alaska is a great read, but should whet the appetite for Michener whose other classics are almost too numerous to list: Hawaii, a similar epic of long generations, The Source, Space, Dynasty, Texas, and others. Michener passed away in 1997. He will be sorely missed.
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