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4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  8,890 Ratings  ·  511 Reviews
In this sweeping epic of the northernmost American frontier, James A. Michener guides us through Alaska’s fierce terrain and history, from the long-forgotten past to the bustling present. As his characters struggle for survival, Michener weaves together the exciting high points of Alaska’s story: its brutal origins; the American acquisition; the gold rush; the tremendous g ...more
Paperback, 868 pages
Published November 12th 2002 by Dial Press Trade Paperback (first published 1988)
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Community Reviews

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Jul 15, 2011 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hist-fic
Spanning almost 30,000 years, this book is the definition of epic historical fiction. Beginning with the migration of mastodon and saber-toothed tigers from Siberia to Alaska across the Bering Land Bridge and continuing forward to the signing of the Alaska Statehood Act that made Alaska the 49th state in 1959, the history of the nations largest state is laid out in surprisingly readable fashion. I now wish there were equally good books on each of the other U.S. states.

I've never read anything b
Joel Neff
Oct 05, 2007 Joel Neff rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Travel lovers and fans of epic stories.
Epic, as a description, is thrown around far too often these days. So often, in fact, that the meaning has been diluted down to where it is used only to describe a long story.

Alaska, by James Michener is not just a long story. Rather, Alaska is an epic in the original sense - a story that is told over the course of epochs, involving generations of characters and genealogies.

The story begins with the forming of the continent of North America and takes the reader through modern times. Along the w
Feb 17, 2012 Dani rated it it was ok
The first five hundred pages of this brick of a book were informative and entertaining enough to get me over the half-way hump, but it quickly became less of a page turner and more of a slog. I think sometimes that updating my progress on Goodreads is more of a motivator to make it through a book than actually reading it... Is that a sign? If your goal is to tell the entire cultural history of a place in a novel - telling it through individual narratives might not be a bad way to do it, especial ...more
Rex Fuller
May 19, 2015 Rex Fuller rated it it was amazing
This is a novel...correction, a saga, built from about three novels and four novellas. But it’s not pure fiction. A number of events and characters are historical and a section in the front tells you which are which. Both an education and a real pleasure, if you like Alaska – and of course everybody does – this is probably a must read.

Michener chronicles the history of Alaska: the accretion of land to form it; arrivals of Athabascans, Eskimos, Aleuts, Russians, and Americans; the fur trade; the
Just arrived from Germany through BM.

Page 141:
Thus the great expedition proposed by Vitus Bering staggered to an inconclusive ending. No officer had set foot on Alaska proper; the scientific excursions had been aborted; no useful charting was done; and fifteen men had already been lost. The adventure which Bering had said could be completed for ten thousand rubles would ultimately consume the two million predicted by the accountants, and all that would have been proved which was not already know
Michael Bass
Jul 28, 2011 Michael Bass rated it really liked it
For two months the author took me on a journey, soaring over majestic mountains and ice crusted seas. I was immersed in the history of the people and their ways and shown both sides of what happens when cultures clash. Alaska unforgiving and brutal to those who don,t follow her rules but a gem to behold for those who take the chance to know her. I probably read an additional three books of info online just following up on some of the topics the author went over in the book. The closest you can g ...more
You can tell it’s the holiday season, because I finished reading this book a week ago and it’s taken me until now to write my review. And, did I mention it took me about three weeks to finish it? Well, it IS a Michener novel, which means not only is it really, really long, but happily, it’s really, really engaging as well!

When I began Alaska, I tried to recall some history of the state, to predetermine what Michener might include in the book. All I could come up with was gold, oil and cruise shi
Bill Hunter
Jan 14, 2010 Bill Hunter rated it liked it
The first two chapters are pretty brutal, but apparently that is Michener. They talk about the geological formation of Alaska and though detailed and informative can be skipped. Once he gets into the third chapter following a pack of mammoths and the life of a salmon things pick up a bit but the book still drags a bit. As Michener gets into the human portion of the novel it gets much more readable.

The book follows interwoven characters and stories (some historical figures and some fictional fig
Jason Gossard
Jan 28, 2010 Jason Gossard rated it it was amazing
I love Michener cause I love long, sprawling, epic tales. This may be my favorite only cause Alaska is one messed up place and Michener brings that long, crazy, rough, touch, somewhat psychotic history to life. From it's earliest animal life to its struggle to become a state, every aspect of Alaska is given an in depth analysis by Michener in a at times thrilling tale of several 'families' and their development over centures. Brilliant and historical fiction at its best!
Reveling in Michener's Alaska in print coupled with Ivey's To the Bright Edge of the World in audio.

I do enjoy a well-crafted sentence:

“Because the great sea was choppy, with a few vagrant icebergs still drifting southward, these daring emigrants in their fragile kayak were going to need three full days to make the crossing from Asia to North America, but in this bright dawn all things seemed possible, and they moved toward the east with a lightness of heart that would have seemed impossible to
Sep 24, 2013 Don rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Don by: Chris Melnick
The story is good, the history great. The characters fail to achieve depth. I failed to connect with most of the characters, although there were a few exceptions. However, as a read before a family trip to Alaska, this was great. Some of the story centered precisely in the area where we traveled, and Michener serves as a great preparatory teacher for anyone planning to travel in Alaska. It was also fun to see who in our family group could get through the 1000 pages first!
Dec 29, 2016 Melissa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one epic work of historical fiction. Michener brings Alaska's history vividly to life.
Sarah Beaudette
May 24, 2016 Sarah Beaudette rated it it was ok
Everyone should know whether s/he is a Michener fan. Turns out, I'm not. I got through the first twenty million years of geological creation this time. I've tried a few times with Hawaii because my mom loves it, but I kept getting distracted. This time, I was actively researching Alaska, and appreciated Michener's detail. Great.

We delve into the generations. I found the chapter from the woolly mammoth's pov more gripping than some of the subsequent chapters from human povs, which was maybe a bad
Sep 19, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although extremely long, this was a very fascinating book. I loved the blend of fiction and nonfiction. I loved the strong female characters. Michener took various important phases of Alaska's history and brought them to life with vivid and amazing detai. Although some of the early characters were a tad two dimensional, by the end the characters were very layered and quite believable. I look forward to reading more of his books.
Nov 15, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it
This was the second book in my Michener Marathon - I read this because there is an entire chapter about the Matanuska Valley Colony
May 25, 2017 Marlie rated it liked it
Puh, hiermit habe ich mich echt schwer getan, obwohl es mir eigentlich ganz gut gefallen hat. Vielleicht war es doch einfach zu lang... 😩
Jul 30, 2009 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Got this at a book sale about three years ago. Last one I read by Michener was "Legacy," and before that "Chesapeake," I REALLY like his multi-generational, multi-century novels, looking forward to this one now!

(many moons later) Done! All 868 pages of it! Not a disappointment, and very much in line with his other multi-generational (nay, geological age) narrative. At my age, I have to write down who's who and how they are related to who was in the last chapter/era; went through three of those i
James A. Michener is known for his highly detailed narrative and pages-long expository on the history of a region. When done correctly, a reader is taken on a whirlwind adventure through time, following the growth and development of an area through the eyes of the land and of a select few founding families. When done poorly, the effect is more like a lengthy history textbook. Alas, Alaska falls into the latter category.

What Michener does well can become nauseatingly boring over time without a hu
Michael Sump
Mar 30, 2013 Michael Sump rated it really liked it
I have rated this a 4, though I'm closer to a 3.5 on this particular book. I love Michener, and I love his style of writing. His books are a blend of historical exposition with a narrative and fictional story. He's very adept at creating families of characters that walk through the history of place and that hold and retain your interest. I give Michener a 5 while giving "Alaska" a 3.5.

The book is long (over 850 pages) as is typical for Michener. I didn't find that this book stuck together as wel
Feb 14, 2012 Mat rated it it was amazing
Marvellous. The best book I have read of Michener's so far.
Michener is truly the epic storyteller par excellence.

In his typical style, he starts way back tracing the early origins of Alaska and how this mass of land came to be formed, takes you through a stunning history of the native peoples both Eskimo and Inuit, through to the inevitable encroachment of white man, the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian and Kodak islands as well as the sale and purchase of the land by the Russians and American
Oct 03, 2011 Linda rated it it was amazing
Michener can be long winded, but the message stays in my mind.
As is his way, he goes back to the very beginning of time explaining
how the movement of the subterranean plates shifted and reshifted
to create the Alaska we know today and how the first men to cross from Asis to Alaska had to work all the time to get food and shelter. His account covers the history of all the tribes of Alaska. His account of the gold rush and how cities came and went was so interesting. I am friends with a married co
Dec 14, 2011 Renee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A passionate story of a passionate region. The experiences of Michener's Alaskan characters are just as exciting and tumultuous as their surroundings. I appreciate that Michener's passion for the lives he created didn't tempt him to give them fairytale endings. Even when a character got a leg-up in one instance, life in Alaska's frontiers continued to assult them on other fronts. His portrayal of encounters between Native Alaskans, Europeans, and Asians were realistic in that they didn't become ...more
Oct 13, 2015 Molly rated it did not like it
I couldn't finish this. I liked the history at first but feel like there was an overall lack of it on the people who were here first - most of the book is devoted to white people coming over and taming the "savages". I wanted to stop reading after the awful story of Cidaq and her "salvation" by being forced into an abusive marriage by her rapist (thank God she was married off afterwards to a man of the church...), but held out hope it might get better. It didn't. I was interested in the history ...more
Aug 22, 2014 Jean rated it really liked it
I really liked it; aside from it being 868 pages! I am going to visit Alaska soon and it was nice to get an overall view of the historical Alaska. This book is a novel, but he does a good job of getting basic Alaskan history in front of the reader and it made me want to know more.
Actually the 868 pages only seems daunting at the beginning. The book is divided into 12 sections, each of which is easily a book in itself. It reads very much like a series would. There is some connection to the chara
Jun 30, 2014 Almac rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks, read-2014
Great book. Epic, full of stories. I feel like he really presented what happened without sugar coating any groups point of view. It was very sad in some parts, inspiring in others. I read a few of James Michener's other historical stories (Chesapeake, Centennial, Texas)and this seemed comparable in quality, scope, and mix of history/story/detail.

The only negative is that "Alaska" got off to a very slow start. The first 15- 20 pages are about the geology and origins of the land. Important for und
Jul 10, 2016 Lj rated it really liked it
I have always enjoyed reading Michener The Source, Hawaii, Centennial - superb historical fiction, detailed, engrossing, covering the subject in a satisfying way. My forthcoming trip prompted me to read Alaska. This one was not as absorbing as the others. Filled with as much detail and the prose that sweeps you along I soldiered through it though I found it to be somewhat disjointed, and a bit of a drudge at times. This is more like a series of stories - long ones. I did learn quite a bit about ...more
Feb 22, 2009 Diana rated it it was amazing
Having returned from a trip to Alaska this past summer, I found this book to be absolutely fantastic. Michener always starts from "nothing" and really builds everything into his novels. I had visited several of the places mentioned in this book, and was as fasinated by his story, as I was with actually being in this wonderful wildnerness.
Rebecca Huston
Mar 26, 2011 Rebecca Huston rated it it was amazing
A very good, if rather episodic, look at Alaska's history from the prehistoric to the modern, with lots of details and personal stories. Great for the armchair or actual traveler. Proved to be very useful for me in planning my upcoming trip to the 49th State.

For the longer review, please go here:
Jan 09, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it
What a creative and engaging way to tell the history of Alaska! I enjoyed every disparate story along the journey, knowing that each would tie back into the long line of characters that had already been introduced. This was my first Michener novel. I will not be afraid to take on another of his epics.
Jonathan Jesse
Dec 30, 2016 Jonathan Jesse rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great read

Years ago in high school I read this book and just finished it again. What an amazing story and what a great book.
One flaw to me is that towards the end the book seems to taper off and is rushed or smashed toghether to end.

Still a wonderful read I recommend it
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James Albert Michener is best known for his sweeping multi-generation historical fiction sagas, usually focusing on and titled after a particular geographical region. His first novel, Tales of the South Pacific , which inspired the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Toward the end of his life, he created the Journey Prize, awarded annually for t
More about James A. Michener...

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“The city of Los Angeles is now some twenty-four hundred miles south of central Alaska, and since it is moving slowly northward as the San Andreas fault slides irresistibly along, the city is destined eventually to become part of Alaska. If” 3 likes
“The movement of animals across the bridge was by no means always in one direction, for although it is true that the more spectacular beasts—mastodon, saber-tooth, rhinoceros—came out of Asia to enrich the new world, other animals like the camel originated in America and carried their wonderful capacities into Asia.” 1 likes
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