I absolutely loved Kavalier and Clay so I had high expectations for this latest Chabon book. It was good but not my favorite of his. I would recommend reading Kavalier and Clay before The Yiddish Policeman's Union. It was written in the police/murder mystery style a la Raymond Chandler. It was well written, as is anything by Chabon. The characters were well developed. But the style just didn't grab me as much.
An interesting look at Alaska if the real (yes, truly it was proposed) plan of resettling Jews in Alaska had occurred. I found it a bit hard to read as there was no glossary and use of a lot of Yiddish. Michael Chabon has a great way with words and there are some fantastic passages. The characters are well-developed, however, by and large I was disappointed with the plot and its resolution.
Are you kidding me? This book won the Nebula? This book won the Hugo? For starters, it's a stretch to categorize this as fantasy or science fiction. It's set in 2008 and technology is exactly the same as what we have available to us today. The only difference is an alternate history. The alteration is that land in Alaska, namely Baranof Island, is set aside as a temporary refugee settlement for Jews during WWII and Israel loses its battle for independence in 1948. So now, in 2008, Sitka is a thriving Jewish community. The main character is a homicide detective in Sitka and the story involves Jews, alcohol, chess and murder. The story, honestly, is quite boring. I fell asleep three times while reading this book. I never fall asleep while reading. The writing, however, was amazing! It was chock full of incredibly interesting and offbeat metaphors and similes. I haven't read any other books by Michael Chabon so I don't know if having a boring story is a recurring problem for him (although I've been told by a friend that it very well might be), but writing the way he does, if he could come up with an interesting story I'm convinced he could produce an amazing book. But this was not it.
I nearly gave up on this because it just wasn't grabbing me, but I kept plugging away in the hope that eventually I'd get as enthused as I was by Kavalier and Clay. But it never happened. The plot - an alternative history look at what might have happened had the post holocaust Jews been unable to settle in Israel after WWII and instead were granted temporary residence in Alaska -- was just far fetched enough to intrigue me. And I have to admit that the strange question of who killed the heroin addicted, gay potential Messiah and ex-wonder child who was also a chess prodigy hooked me once I got into it. But in the end the book just didn't deliver. And what's every bit as much of a mystery as the question about the son of the rabbi who was murdered in the flea-bitten hotel room he'd been living in is how on earth this novel could possibly have won two prestigious awards for science fiction writing!!
I found this to be an interesting book but a very slow read. For whatever reason I struggled to get through this book.