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Summary and book reviews of Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon

Gentlemen of the Road

A Tale of Adventure

by Michael Chabon

Gentlemen of the Road
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2007, 208 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2008, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

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Book Summary

Zelikman and Amran are escorting a young prince to reclaim his usurped throne. Getting there – along a path paved with warriors and whores, evil emperors and extraordinary elephants, secrets, swordplay, and such stuff as the grandest adventures are made of – will be much more than half the fun.

Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, sprang from an early passion for the derring-do and larger-than-life heroes of classic comic books. Now, once more mining the rich past, Chabon summons the rollicking spirit of legendary adventures–from The Arabian Nights to Alexandre Dumas to Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories–in a wonderful new novel brimming with breathless action, raucous humor, cliff-hanging suspense, and a cast of colorful characters worthy of Scheherazade’s most tantalizing tales.

They’re an odd pair, to be sure: pale, rail-thin, black-clad Zelikman, a moody, itinerant physician fond of jaunty headgear, and ex-soldier Amram, a gray-haired giant of a man as quick with a razor-tongued witticism as he is with a sharpened battle-ax. Brothers under the skin, comrades in arms, they make their rootless way through the Caucasus Mountains, circa A.D. 950, living as they please and surviving however they can–as blades and thieves for hire and as practiced bamboozlers, cheerfully separating the gullible from their money. No strangers to tight scrapes and close shaves, they’ve left many a fist shaking in their dust, tasted their share of enemy steel, and made good any number of hasty exits under hostile circumstances.

None of which has necessarily prepared them to be dragooned into service as escorts and defenders to a prince of the Khazar Empire. Usurped by his brutal uncle, the callow and decidedly ill-tempered young royal burns to reclaim his rightful throne. But doing so will demand wicked cunning, outrageous daring, and foolhardy bravado . . . not to mention an army. Zelikman and Amram can at least supply the former. But are these gentlemen of the road prepared to become generals in a full-scale revolution? The only certainty is that getting there–along a path paved with warriors and whores, evil emperors and extraordinary elephants, secrets, swordplay, and such stuff as the grandest adventures are made of–will be much more than half the fun.

Chapter One

On Discord Arising from the Excessive Love of a Hat

For numberless years a myna had astounded travelers to the caravansary with its ability to spew indecencies in ten languages, and before the fight broke out everyone assumed the old blue-tongued devil on its perch by the fireplace was the one who maligned the giant African with such foulness and verve. Engrossed in the study of a small ivory shatranj board with pieces of ebony and horn, and in the stew of chickpeas, carrots, dried lemons and mutton for which the caravansary was renowned, the African held the place nearest the fire, his broad back to the bird, with a view of the doors and the window with its shutters thrown open to the blue dusk. On this temperate autumn evening in the kingdom of Arran in the eastern foothills of the Caucasus, it was only the two natives of burning jungles, the African and the myna, who sought to warm their bones. The precise origin of the African remained a mystery. In his quilted gray ...

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Reviews

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The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, without a doubt Chabon's best work to date, proved that his unit of composition is the chapter. In that work, as in Gentlemen of the Road, each one ends with a virtuosic flourish of the pen—a moment of exquisite suspense, a satisfying one-liner, a tiny release of narrative tension. In this way, Chabon is as generous to his readers as he is to his characters. Gentlemen of the Road is undiluted pleasure.   (Reviewed by Amy Reading).

Full Review Members Only (662 words).

Media Reviews
The New York Times - Susann Cokal

And although the effect can be dizzying and the plot may twist a time or two too many, it's hard to resist its gathering momentum, not to mention the sheer headlong pleasure of Chabon's language.

The Washington Post - Mameve Medwed

…a picaresque, swashbuckling adventure…Chabon's highfalutin writing is an object lesson in style perfectly matched to genre…If any good adventure is all about the journey, there is also, as Amram remarks, "an appeal in the idea of seeing some business through from start to finish."

Library Journal

Chabon has a humorous, acrobatic writing style that translates rather well to the adventure genre. Highly recommended .

Kirkus Reviews

[An] ebullient yarn that blithely defies probability, while plundering from innumerable semi-literary sources....Ridiculously entertaining.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A significant change from Chabon's weightier novels, this dazzling trifle is simply terrific fun.

Reader Reviews
Jeanne W

Can it be good if I didn't like it?
Well-written, unusual theme, humor, engaging characters but it did nothing for me. I think there's a core audience for this type of book but it's not me. It might appeal to short-story enthusiasts as each chapter seems to be a story unto itself. ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Lost Empire of Khazaria

Khazaria (map) was an empire founded by semi-nomadic Turks in the 7th century. Khazaria was a strong ally of the Byzantine Empire and enemies of the Crimean Goths. By the time of its decline in the 10th century, Khazaria covered much of what is now southern Russia, western Kazakhstan, eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan, large portions of the Caucasus, and the Crimea. Between 965 and 969, approximately the time period of Gentlemen of the Road, the Khazars were ...

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