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on 10 March 2007
A book of remarkable conception and brilliant execution. Alaska is 915 pages* of Alaskan prehistory and history told through a series of characters, the vast majority fictional, brought to life by Michener. The result is a book that informs as well as entertains, educates as well as enthrals. Living so far North is clearly not for the faint hearted and whether your favourite character is Trofim Zhdanko, Cidaq, Vasili Voronov, Ravenheart, Missy Peckham, Tom Venn, Sam Bigears, LeRoy Flatch, Vladimir Afanasi, Jeb Keeler, Kendra Scott or one of the others so well brought to life in this book, you will have an empathy with the challenges and the conditions. The book is well balanced and compares Russian vision with American disinterest. The research appears thorough but it is the story that keeps the reader engaged. The scope of the book is as large as the territory it describes and if it nothing else makes you want to visit Alaska this book will!

* Although the spec says 640 pages the book I have is 915 pages (ISBN is the same).
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on 5 September 2007
First, let me announce my bias: I was born and raised in Alaska.

When I saw this novel on the bookshelves when it first came out, I promised myself I'd read it even tho I had never read anything by Michener. Well, some 20 years later, I finally read it. And -- boy! -- do I wish I hadn't waited so long. It's a long book (close to 1,000 pages) and I was so engrossed that I almost lost sight of the real world for the duration.

Of course, being from Alaska helps. I could orient myself geographically with little trouble. I had the broad outlines of the history already. And the historical names were almost all familiar to me if not the details of their lives.

But what Michener did which I most appreciate about his novel is painlessly impart the details of history by interweaving it so tightly with his colorful fiction that it was hard for me during the reading to separate the two. Yet I'm sure I know what is historical and what isn't. It's a contradiction, I know. And a compliment to this man's storytelling skill.

I let out a satisfied "whew!" when I closed the book a final time and returned to reality. Then I suffered withdrawal symptoms for days, maybe weeks. I found myself gazing wistfully at some of his other large works in the bookstores. Did you know there's no Michenerholics Anonymous? I've just begun reading THE SOURCE. I couldn't help myself.
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on 22 May 2017
I have read almost all of James A Mitchner books and I find them all very interesting for the knowledge they give me.
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on 2 April 2008
I first visited Alaska on holiday 17yrs ago and bought the book when I got home.I am a Michener addict and have been for forty[ugh,forty,I was avery young teenager when I bought The Source which started my addiction]years so I knew I was in for a treat.My son had just started yr2 in his Infant school and so I was a school run mum. My addiction to this book meant that I would roll up to school a good hour before before school ended just so I could settle down, on my own, and greedily read this fabulous book.I love all the books Michener wrote as 'faction' is my favourite style of literature.I love reading and can speed read lightweight novels in a couple of hours and enjoy them in a light superficial beach/holiday kind of way. This book took me weeks and I felt totally bereft after finishing it.It was as if a very good friend had emmigrated,sad I know,but such was the thrall the story held me in.Just try putting it down and leaving it. An impossibility.You have to finish it and then you're upset when you do.Catch 22.
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on 28 December 2011
I read this book years ago and it was like going on a long journey. I love the way James Michener's books take you right there and make you feel that you are part of the story. "Alaska" takes you through from antiquity to the present time and follows families and groups of people who have battled through the ice during the last Ice Age in order to settle down. It follows the annual whale hunt and the people who live from the sea. I loved every minute of it and now want to buy it again to read on my Kindle. But it's not available in Kindle! Please bring it out in Kindle soon. There's a new generation of people just needing to buy and read this book!
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on 5 January 2016
What a tome, what a saga, what a history - all 1071 pages of it. A massive achievement to write, and a massive achievement to read. Whew. But so, so worth it. We visited Alaska the most popular way - by cruise ship - and then spent a few more days in Anchorage after the cruise finished. We were captivated by the place, and barely scratched the surface in the very short time that we were there. The natural beauty of the place is astounding, as are the challenges this environment poses to mere mortals who have attempted to carve out a life there. I so wanted to find out more about Alaska, the people, the history and the environment, and James Michener seemed a very easy way to do it.

This novel follows much the same pattern as Michener's other massive historical sagas using a particular geographical area to tell his stories. With Alaska, he goes back to the very beginning - the bones of the spectacular geography laid down millions of years ago, pre historic animal populations, early human migration and settlement - the Athapascans, Eskimos, Tlingits and Aleuts, the arrival of the Russians from across the Bering Sea and the havoc they wrecked on the indigenous peoples and the sea otter populations, the Americans and British also wanting their slice of the pie. Then the discovery of gold, with mass migrations from all over the world, the development of the salmon industry, the importance of aviation, oil exploration. It's a marvellous account, and has inspired me to one day go back to Alaska and explore further. It seems it is always treated as the poor cousin by the rest of the US, but there have been no scruples at all in exploiting it for its natural resources at the expense of its people. Just a tad long though - a couple of hundred pages shorter would have had no impact on the story or the lives of the people in the story.
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on 21 August 2014
Found this very heavy going. The factual bits were okay, but the fictional bits were irritating and did not engage my interest at all.
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on 16 April 2011
Alaska is an astounding documentary, filled with fictional characters who bring to life an amazing history, frought with danger, wealth, political intrigue, and beauty. Hard to let go of.
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on 4 April 2014
James Michener is a diamond writer; he combines fact with fiction to make it a constructive and educational read. The book arrived in good condition and promptly. Money well spent
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on 1 March 2011
What a book! Epic would be the best way to describe it, a brilliant mix of facts and historical fiction. If you are interested in Alaska then read this book!
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