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"Write out of love, write out of instinct, write out of reason. But always for money."
Louis Untermeyer


By James A. Michener
Fawcett Crest, 1,073 pp, 1988

You know you're reading a Michener when you're at page 500 and still not halfway through the book.

But that's okay, because his books are so good you don't want it to end. Alaska is no exception.

I've read several other Michener books (Chesapeake, Space, Texas, Poland, Caravans, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, Legacy) and Alaska fits the same mold. It's a sweeping, dramatic retelling of Alaska's past, with a hint of its future.

As always, Michener blends fact and fiction, and explains which is which in the front of the book. His fictional characters are compelling and at times heroic. The setting runs the gamut from the Aleutian Islands, down the panhandle around Juneau, and north of the Arctic Circle, in places like Barrow and Desolation. He covers some prehistoric history, Russian settlement, the gold rush, salmon industry, and World War II.

As with some of his other books, he subtly condemns American settlement and management of the natural environment and native citizens. But he doesn't let that get in the way of the story.

If you like broad, historical fiction, pick up a Michener. Alaska would do nicely.

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