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Gentlemen of the Road: A Tale of Adventure Hardcover – Print, October 30, 2007

168 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Pulitzer Prize winner–Chabon (The Yiddish Policemen's Union) recreates 10th-century Khazaria, the fabled kingdom of wild red-haired Jews on the western shore of the Caspian Sea, in this sprightly historical adventure. Zelikman and Amram, respectively a gawky Frank and a gigantic Abyssinian, make their living by means of confidence tricks, doctoring, bodyguarding and the occasional bit of skullduggery along the Silk Road. The unlikely duo find themselves caught up in larger events when they befriend Filaq, the headstrong and unlikable heir to the recently deposed war king of the Khazars. Their attempts to restore Filaq to the throne make for a terrifically entertaining modern pulp adventure replete with marauding armies, drunken Vikings, beautiful prostitutes, rampaging elephants and mildly telegraphed plot points that aren't as they seem. Chabon has a wonderful time writing intentionally purple prose and playing with conventions that were most popular in the days of Rudyard Kipling and Talbot Mundy. Gary Gianni's elegant illustrations, a cross between Vierge's art for Don Quixote and Brundage's Weird Tales covers, perfectly complement the historical adventure. A significant change from Chabon's weightier novels, this dazzling trifle is simply terrific fun. (Oct.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Gentlemen of the Road, compared by the New York Times Book Review to "the stories found in 19th-century dime novels and the fantastic escapades invented by Edgar Rice Burroughs and H. Rider Haggard," was first published in serial form in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Critics quickly pointed out the telltale signs of the multiple-installment format: new characters, settings, and plot twists in every chapter, which result in a fast, sometimes confusing, pace. Chabon’s lush, memorable prose shines here despite the obscurity of some of his language. A few critics complained of uninteresting characters and outlandish scenarios, while most complimented the charming illustrations by Gary Gianni. This 21st-century spin on the old-fashioned adventure tale won’t be to everyone’s taste, but adventurous readers wishing to experience Chabon’s amazing literary range are in for a thrilling, outrageous joyride.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 204 pages
  • Publisher: Del Rey; 1 edition (October 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345501748
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345501745
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (168 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #298,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, A Model World, Wonder Boys, Werewolves in Their Youth, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The Final Solution, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Maps and Legends, Gentlemen of the Road, and the middle grade book Summerland.

He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children. You can visit Michael online at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book should come with a big warning wrapper: "Michael Chabon's latest book is unlike his previous work, it is an homage to classic adventure writing -- your results may vary." That's because it's a book whose enjoyment depends heavily on the reader's expectations, and a number of reviewers seem to find fault with it because of this. If you're a fan of Chabon, be warned that it's miles away from his early work like Wonder Boys or The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, and while it shares certain themes with more recent work like Kavalier & Clay, The Final Solution, and The Yiddish Policeman's Union, it's a large stylistic departure and really an experiment unto itself.

Originally written in serial chapters published in the New York Times Magazine, the story follows the stylistic and narrative conventions of the old time pulp serials. And if you've never read any old adventure classics like H. Rider Haggard's Allan Quartermain stories, Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories, or Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar stories, then the heavily stylized form may throw you. Indeed, some reviewers have complained that the story is confusing and hard to follow, which frankly, baffles me. Like its literary ancestors, the plot is such that a 10-year-old could follow and recount it, so the conclusion I draw is that the genre itself is defeating some readers.
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82 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Lonya VINE VOICE on August 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The story of the Jewish kingdom of the Khazars is a fascinating piece of history. The Khazars were a collection of semi-nomadic tribes that wandered through the Caucasus region of what is now Russia. Khazaria, loosely thought of as the isthmus-like land mass located between the Black and Caspian Seas, was an ideal site for merchants and wandering traders. Khazaria was buffeted on three sides by the Caliphate's Islamic forces to the south, Byzantium's Greek Christian forces to the southwest, and the barbarian Kievan Rus forces to the north. In an act of geopolitical realpolitik the Khagan, leader of the Khazars, converted to Judaism at some point in the seventh century in order to maintain a neutral balance of power in the region. The Jewish Khazars maintained dominance in the region from around the latter part of the 8th century until the early part of the 11thcentury at which point the Kievan Russians, who had converted to Christianity and aligned themselves with the Byzantines, overturned the Khazar's rule. The story of the ancient Khazars is an intriguing one that makes for a fascinating historical study. They were the sole independent Jewish state ever to exist outside of contemporary Israel. There have been some good books, both fiction and non-fiction, about the Khazars including: The Jews of Khazaria, Dictionary of the Khazars (M), and The Wind of the Khazarsthat provide a wealth of information on this little known piece of history.Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Sundquist on December 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The blurbs on the back cover compare "Gentlemen of the Road" to Alexandre Dumas and Edgar Rice Burroughs -- an old fashioned adventure story, short, fast paced, and easy to read. In its specifics it more closely resembles the Fafrhd and Grey Mouser series of stories by Fritz Leiber: a similar luxury of language and verbal wit, and a pair of juxtaposed wandering heroes, one giant and one small and quick. Our heroes here are Zelikman, a gaunt Frankish healer often described as a scarecrow, and Amram, a towering Abyssinian with a massive Viking axe.

There are two basic things that make this book a little better than your average adventure novel. The first is the historical setting, the steppes of Central Asia in the tenth century A.D. There are Khazars and Rabanites, elephants and marauding Rus, Jews and Muslims and a smattering of languages. As far as I'm aware no one has ever attempted to set a story in such a place, outside of Borodin's opera "Prince Igor". It's exotic enough to elicit a certain otherworldly excitement, but grounded in reality and history that keeps the romance from taking over entirely. Mr Chabon has done his research and rendered a complete world, believably populated by a variety of characters and cultures.

The second thing that makes this little book so worthwhile is the skill that Mr Chabon brings to its creation. He is known as a big-ticket bestselling literary author, and some people would say this sort of genre exercise is below him; however, it's precisely because he's got serious literary chops that he can pull off the plotting and style of "Gentlemen of the Road". He slips into the obscure words and old fashioned style with ease, and it's a pleasure to read every word of the book.
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