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.
Chabon's novel is highly imaginative, engaging, and thrilling. it's a short novel of historical fiction with a simple but extremely interesting setting, and a fairly standard "quest" premise.
Braugher's narration, however, is very difficult to listen to without drifting off or losing focus. I have a physical copy of the book as well as the audio, and I found myself turning the audio off a lot and just reading the old-fashioned way.
Andre Braugher has such an expressive voice, he was perfect for this rollicking, swashbuckling story. You could imagine hearing it by candlelight in an old tavern somewhere. Lots of fun.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
This book is super fun. It's fast paced, light, smart and seamlessly crafted. Gentlemen Of The Road reminds me what it was like when I was a little kid bookworm, devouring trashy paperback adventures from cover to cover.
As a child, old pulp serials were the best thing ever. John Carter, Conan, Tarzan - these books whisked me through their pages with knuckle biting adventure - but somehow you always knew the hero would come out on top, despite his (always his) nagging personal doubts, and the overwhelming odds. The simple characters, and almost familiar plots set in exotic locations thrilled me.
Revisiting the novels as an adult, the experience soured. I found them tedious, xenophobic, sexist, and full of horrid cliches. Truly one of those sad moments of lost innocence.
However, this book captures everything my itty-bitty self adored in those old adventures. Chabon perfectly reinvents the flare and simplicity of bold men and women, clever rapscallions, and cruel villains - all dueling in another time and place. And it ditches all the anachronistic manure found in the old pulps. And it's beautifully written, with a voice that effortlessly glides the reader across the exotic locale and fast paced action.
Pros and cons of the audio version: while the audiobook loses the great spot illustrations of the printed edition, it makes up for that with Andre Braugher's reading. His pacing and the texture of his voice perfectly enhances this story.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
"All the evil in the world derives from the actions of men acting in a mass against other masses of men."
- Michael Chabon, Gentlemen of the Road
Jews with Swords? I guess that was Chabon's working title, if Chabon is to be believed. He is a bit unreliable. His prose, however, is delicious. His perspective is always new and fresh. I don't think this is nearly one of his great ones*, but it seems like it might have been the most enjoyable (that I've read so far) for Chabon to write. It is a yarn, a tale, a swashbuckler, a grift, a rollick, a legend. I'm not sure why it hasn't been made into a movie. It is NOT, however, live promotions company, record label and organizer of the global series of Stopover Festivals. That is a different set of Gentlemen.
This short novel seems like some Jewish equivalent to The Princess Bride (yes, I understand that William Goldman is Jewish, but the Princess Bride was not directly a Jewish adventure). Anyway, it was the perfect book to read as I flew from Phoenix to Dallas to start a weeklong eclipse road trip with my brother and Douglas Laux. It was tight and the prose was classic Chabon. One of my favorite things about this book? The chapters:
"On Discord Arising from the Excessive Love of a Hat"
"On the Seizing of a Low Moment"
"On Anxieties Arising from the Impermissibility, However Unreasonable, of an Elephant's Rounding Out a Prayer Quorum"
"On the Melancholy Duty of Soldiers to Contend with the Messes Left By Kings"
* Great Ones:
1. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
3. Wonder Boys
4. The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
13 of 17 people found this review helpful
Very different than Chabon's other books, but outstanding nonetheless.
Braugher's performance is also stunning.
The setting for this adventure story, Kazaria, is a historical empire, but one I had never encountered despite being a history enthusiast.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
My first Chabon book, and what a joy to stumble upon such wonderful descriptions as "unpersuasive shade of a gnarled juniper." Not a masterpiece but highly enjoyable.
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
for a book presented as a "swashbuckling adventure", "raucous...rank...beguiling", "ridiculously entertaining", i was thankful that this boring book was so short, and even then i was tempted to ditch it. I didn't find the tale to be exciting at all, nor the style to be "sumptuously written". & to draw comparisons with ERB is not really a compliment as, apart from ERB's imagined worlds, (Barsoom Pellucidar Tarzan etc.) , ERB was a terrible stylist. & Braugher is rather uncompelling as a narrator.
1 of 6 people found this review helpful