Wednesday, December 31, 2008

08.34 The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon

The Yiddish Policeman's Union (2007) by Michael Chabon

Nine months Landsman's been flopping at the Hotel Zamenhof without any of his fellow residents managing to get themselves murdered. Now somebody has put a bullet in the brain of the occupant of 208, a yid who was calling himself Emanuel Lasker.

This is the second book I have read by Chabon after reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay a few years ago. That was a fun novel which incorporated much of the history of the Golden Age of comic books and contained references to many of it's heroes such as Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Joe Simon, Will Eisner, and Jim Steranko.

This newest novel came with a good pedigree having won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards. It turns out to be SF not in the science fiction sense but more so in the speculative fiction one. I would describe the book as an alternate history crime novel.

The setting of the book is one where history has diverged from the one we now know around 1940. The US has created a temporary European Jewish homeland based in Sitka, Alaska. The State of Israel was never created because of their loss of the Arab-Israeli war. Now, over 50 years later, the Reversion is set to evict all the millions of Jews that have been living in Alaska. At this point our crime story begins.

I won't reveal any of the details of the plot but suffice to say that there is an execution style murder in a fleabag hotel where an alcoholic, divorced police detective named Meyer Landsman lives. Yes, it all sounds cliched but Chabon writes very well and the setting of Sitka with it's Tlingit natives and ultraorthodox Jews makes the whole thing really interesting.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this book although I do have two fairly minor complaints. In the end, I felt some dissatisfaction with the reveal but it can never be all that you expect it to be. The other issue for me was the incessant use (whether by design or style, I do not know) of simile in the book. Nevertheless, a good read.

PS: The rights have been optioned, pre-production completed and the Coen Brothers are set to direct.

1 comment:

Olman Feelyus said...

The count keeps climbing!

It is an intriguing alternate history. Do the historical proceedings (the Reversion) come into play much?