Customer Reviews for

Gentlemen of the Road

Average Rating 3.5
( 27 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 review with 4 star rating   See All Ratings
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  • Posted July 1, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderful addition to Chabons growing list of hits

    I really liked this book... While it lacks the weight (Both physical and literary) of Chabons other novels like "Kavlier and Clay", it has it's own attractions... Namely Chabons playful way of making a joke and keeping the plot moving forward. And the plot does move forward at a breakneck pace throughout the novel - there isn't a wasted page in the entire book. Highly recommended!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2007

    Richly Imagined Khazar World

    Michael Chabon, in this homage to the pulp adventures of the early to mid-twentieth century, here gives us a classic tale of two bickering partners, equally skilled in survival and combat, on a seemingly endless quest. The Abyssinian Jew, Amram, is wandering the world in search of a kidnapped daughter and, after a ten year stint in the service of the Byzantines, has hooked up with a renegade scholar and physician from the Jewish quarter of Regensburg, a German township in the West. The hook here is that both these adventurers are Jews, something that seems an anomaly at the time when this book is set since Jews of that era were mostly merchants, scholars and physicians, a people largely marginalized by the other ethnic groups among whom they moved. Chabon has put these adventurers in the orbit of the Khazar Empire, a land barely remembered today which surprised its contemporaries and later historians by adopting the Jewish faith. Our heroes, Amram the Abyssinian and Zelikman ben Solomon, the renegade scholar from Regensburg, suddenly find they must run for their lives as they seek to get a young and somewhat obnoxious Khazar prince to safety and claim the expected reward for his safekeeping. But the young prince has a few surprises of his own and the pursuing Muslim horsemen prove more relentless than the Jewish soldiers of fortune anticipated. Michael Chabon is apparently quite taken with the adventure form and this book is dedicated, at the front, to old time sword and sorcery writer Michael Moorcock whose albino warrior hero, Elric Melnibone, finds echoes in the rail thin, wraith-like Zelikman (whose name resonates unsurprisingly with the Woody Allen character Zelig who manages to insert himself into the great events of the early twentieth century in the Allen film of that name). Zelikman is described as garbed in black and pale, with flowing blonde locks that make him appear almost ghostlike. His personality is ghostlike, too, for he is a dark fellow with a dreadful past who has lost faith in humanity and in the religion of his fathers. Still he is a more than able swordsman and a somewhat cynical thief prepared to prey on others' naivete. And yet this Zelikman retains a still human sympathy for others in need, not excluding his own kind as we learn when he stumbles onto a caravan of Jewish merchants including a few in their number from Regensburg. When Amram and Zelikman aren't sniping at one another, Zelikman is smoking hashish to escape the grimness of the world around him and Amram is brooding over his lost daughter, blaming himself for failing to find her again. All this angst is very contemporary and adds an unexpected dimension to this old style adventure. But the story is so swift in its movement that we don't learn much more about the two protagonists than this as they race away from the pursuing horsemen, find violence and death wherever their horses take them and then become embroiled in the politics of the late Khazar Empire. The record shows that the Khazars were finally destroyed by the Rus (precursors of today's Russians) in the mid-tenth century and that their empire was scattered to the winds, history losing track of them thereafter. But Chabon gives us a richly imagined Khazaria that feels almost real. Despite his tendency to skimp on narrative details as the story advances (one has to read the text very closely at times to follow the events), there is a robust feel to the Khazar backstory. I had a few quibbles, though, including his use of elephants in the storyline. In fact, there is no evidence that the Khazars ever kept or used elephants in war 'the climate, with its harsh winters, wasn't right for this while the Khazars, themselves, were steppe horsemen, fighting in fast moving raids that elephants would have been useless in'. Similarly, Chabon gives us the Rus attacking the coastal Muslim cities along the shores of the Caspian Sea with the connivance of the Khazar usurper, B

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    Posted October 18, 2008

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    Posted May 28, 2009

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