It’s been sometime sense I’ve finished a work of fiction. Not for lack of trying, but for lack of getting into a really good story. I happened upon Michael Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road on a free bookshelf in Fort McCoy (this will develop into a theme at some point). It was certainly the reintroduction to fiction that I needed.
Chabon provides a fast, paced and action-filled journey through the Khazar Empire as a moody, physician (Zelikman) and a weary African warrior (Amram) become unwillingly tangled in an adventure that doesn’t seem to end. The book seems to have no intended direction instead following the lead of the characters who are guided by their past demons and desires to avoid further involvement in the affairs of others.
The already complex, lives of Amram and Zelikman descend into a tumultuous chain of events involving bloody battles, plundering, and the occasional coup upon the introduction of Filaq (a weak and defenseless prisoner whom they are charged to protect). Filaq’s rather dubious origins and shifting connections to royalty manage to seal Amram’s and Zelikman’s fate and link them to an unavoidable destiny.
Chabon offers no shortage of plot twist in his beautifully descriptive short novel. He drops the reader dead into the center of the Khazar Empire and builds the environment in which the characters reside as the story progresses. Gentlemen of the Road hits the ground running leaving the reader to catch up with a story that has been ongoing for some centuries before the story picks up.