Gentlemen of the Road
Gentlemen of the Road By Michael Chabon
(Del Rey Books, Oct. 2007, $21.95, Hardcover)
Reviewed by Michael Van Natta (Knoxville, Iowa)
From the pen of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Michael Chabon, a light and ribald tale of three wayfarers set in tenth century southwestern Asia, a land where fledgling nation-state and tribal warfare is a way of life.
In this short novel, a scrawny Jewish physician with a chapeau-fetish and a muscle-bound ax-wielding African mercenary team up as cantankerous but inseparable travelers, con-men and warriors for hire. Along the road, they take a waifish Frenchman prisoner for ransom. In their quest to return him to his father, a tribal leader, they become entangled with the warring armies and factions of the Caucuses, from the invading power of the northern Rus, to the remnants of the Persian and Roman Empires, to the real power of the land – the local royalty. Fleshing out their world with blood and death, frivolity and superstition, ribald sexuality, drugs and liquor, Chabon renders a stark dusty and impoverished world bent on power-wielding with sword and saber, armies and legions, all from the devil-may care perspective of men whose highest ambition in life seems to be only the next adventure.
Chabon paints wonderful and lovable characters slowly revealed as intricate, fully-human and conflicted; characters who stand toe-to-toe with Don Quixote and each of the three musketeers. This novel is a must for Chabon readers.