Aural Noir Review of Gentlemen Of The Road by Michael Chabon

Aural Noir: Review

RANDOM HOUSE AUDIO - Gentleman Of The Road by Michael ChabonGentlemen Of The Road: A Tale Of Adventure
By Michael Chabon; Read by Andre Braugher
Audible Download – Approx. 4 Hours 13 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: October 2007
Provider: Audible.com
Themes: / Adventure / Crime / Jewishness / War / Politics / Mercenaries / Con-men / Khazaria /

Gentlemen Of The Road was first published as a serial in The New York Times Magazine. Despite it’s sword and sorcery feel, it is not actually a Fantasy novel, but is instead a “swashbuckling adventure” set in an obscure, but real, historical setting. Its heroes, Amram and Zelikman, are an odd, but vaguely familiar, pair. Familiar in their companionable rivalry and clearly inspired by Fritz Leiber’s famed pair of characters: Fafhrd and Grey Mouser. But, instead of one being a short, urban thief and the other a hulking Northern barbarian, the two are instead the titular gentlemen of the road, wandering Jews, or as Chabon himself states in the audiobook’s afterword “Jews With Swords.” And that’s what was really important in this story; though each of these two Jews looks entirely unalike from the other, they are tied together by far flung tradition, common heritage and similar tales of woe. The larger of the pair is Amram, a swarthy Abyssinian with a penchant for shatranj and quite literally an axe to grind. The slighter and paler of the pair is Zelikman, a fair haired Frank, who far from being a member of the thieves guild is actually a doctor (he wields an “over-sized bloodletting lance as a rapier”). Together they are a neat pair of dark age sell-swords/con-men, working the taverns and inns of southern Eurasia. It is, all in all, one of the neatest set-ups for a book I’ve ever heard. And you couldn’t find a funner fictional premise for illustrating the Jewish diaspora in an adventure novel.

One evening (circa AD 950), a chance encounter at a roadside inn in the kingdom of Aran leads to a body-guard job. The job involves a journey to the neighboring khaganate of Khazaria. Along the way they meet many a fellow road traveler and have some less than polite encounters. Eventually, Amram and Zelikman (A & Z) find themselves fully entangled in a rebellion and plot aimed at restoring a displaced Khazar prince to the throne.

Narrator Andre Braugher is a television actor that I’ve admired since his portrayal of the unwaveringly professional detective Frank Pembelton on Homicide: Life on The Street. Braugher has a powerful voice that he uses to deliver Chabon’s ornately constructed descriptive scenes and dialogue. You can tell, with every sentence of Braugher’s delivery, that Chabon loves language. I thoroughly enjoyed the book after I got into it. But it wasn’t easy, I really had to shift gears. This is embellished storytelling, it feels both old-fashioned and unrepentantly ostentatious. It has very little of the usual fantasy stylings, it dumps any ordinary flat or prosaic description in favour of the deliberately lavish. Once I did get into it, I loved it. There’s a lot of detail to enjoy here. Chabon’s hulking Abyssinan, for instance, has a battle-axe. He gained it after combat with the Varangian Guard in Byzantium. A runic inscription on it roughly translates into “defiler of your mother.” Another writer would have done it another way – another writer wouldn’t have done it at all. This is what makes Chabon, his books and this novella in particular so special.

Sadly, the audiobook lacks the map and the 15 terrific black and white illustrations (by Gary Gianni ) found in the paperbook. Here is a peek at both:

Gentlemen Of The Road - MAP

Gentlemen Of The Road - PAGE 161

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #024

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #024 – Jesse and Scott discuss hardware (which is the best iPod), comics (graphic novels to some), movies (bad and worse) and even a few audiobooks (not so bad at all).

Talked about on today’s show:
Recent arrivals, Od Magic by Patricia A. McKillip, Blackstone Audio, Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint, urban fantasy, Pebble In The Sky by Isaac Asimov, BBC Audiobooks America, Gentleman Of The Road by Michael Chabon, In The Electric Mist With The Confederate Dead by James Lee Burke, New Orleans, why there’s no such thing as a “noir” series, Montana, film: Taken, ViolentWorldOfParker.com, Duplicate Effort by Kristine Katherine Rusch, the Moon, Audible.com’s Short Story sale, Coming Attraction by Fritz Leiber, LibriVox + SFFaudio = Instant iTunes Audiobooks, “Here Comes The eBook Revolution” by Mike Elgan, the e-ing of magazines, review of The Book Of Lies by Brad Meltzer, Phantoms by Dean Koontz, revisionism – what authors shouldn’t go back and revise (or update) their published novels, evidence: Star Wars, Star Trek: Amok Time, Escape Pod returns! with a new Ken Scholes short story, Lamentation by Ken Scholes, Springtime for Hitler (and Germany), iPhone’s drawback (battery life), iPod Nano vs. iPod Classic vs. iPod Touch, The Cutie by Donald E. Westlake comes to audiobook on March 1st 2009, Decoder Ring Theatre, Gregg Taylor’s Black Jack Justice is now a webcomic!, Sandman: Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman, Gaiman on CBC,

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #017

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #017 – Brian Murphy of The Silver Key blog joins the podcast and talks to us about his terrific blog, writing habits, and how vikings and rappers are alike.

Talked about on today’s show:
Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, Michael D.C. Drout‘s Beowulf, Neil Gaiman‘s Beowulf, religion in fiction, god in fiction, Stephen King, Carrie, The Stand, Desperation, The Regulators, Kate Nelligan, Delores Claiborne, Cujo, The Tommyknockers, On Writing, Duma Key, The Dark Tower, George R.R. Martin, A Song Of Ice And Fire, Roy Dotrice, Pandora Star, Peter F. Hamilton, Audiofile magazine, how being a truck driver is worse than being in prison (without audiobooks), Mini-Masterpieces of Science Fiction edited by Allan Kaster, Fantasy, Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, The Wheel Of Time, Robert E. Howard, J.R.R. Tolkien, my fantasy fiction rant, “fantasy fiction works best when magic is talked about but rarely seen”, The Cimmerian blog, Mark Finn’s Blood And Thunder, Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Gentlemen Of The Road, Henry Treece, The Viking Trilogy: Viking’s Dawn, The Road To Mikligaard, Viking’s Sunset, Bernard Cornwell, Saxon Stories: The Last Kingdom, Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels, William Gibson, Neuromancer, The Dark Worlds Of H.P. Lovecraft, Wayne June, horror movie: Session 9.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #002

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe first one they made was so good they recorded a sequel! Indeed, The SFFaudio Podcast #002 is even more blockbustery (with 20% more bluster).

In show double-oh-two Scott D. Danielson and Jesse Willis talk about audiobooks, audio drama, and the correct pronunciation of the word “orgy.” We also talked about Recent Arrivals, New Releases, LibriVox, what we’ve been listening to, and where. It’s a big, big, show!

Topics under discussion include:

The Last Theorem, Carnival, Elizabeth Bear, L. Ron Hubbard, Galaxy Press, Zeppelins, airships, Michael Chabon, our new Publishers page, Grover Gardner, The Number 23, Scott Brick, Paul Of Dune, Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, The Little Book, Selden Edwards, Brad Meltzer, The Book Of Lies, Superman, Orhan Pamuk, the Entitled Opinions podcast, Turkey, Ottoman Empire, Michael Flynn, Blackstone Audio, The January Dancer, Eifelheim, Podiobooks.com, The Kiribati Test, Jim Thompson, The Grifters, Philip K. Dick, Macmillan Audio, Anathem, Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash, The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, Waldentapes, Star Trek, LibriVox, Space Viking, Mark Douglas Nelson, H. Beam Piper (and our new AUTHOR PAGE for him), The Green Odyssey, The Second SFFaudio Challenge, Brandon Sanderson, Orthopedic Horseshoes, Edo van Belkom (he’s the ex-school bus driver), The Accidental Time Machine, Joe Haldeman, The Forever War, “Our Last Words”, Damon Kaswell, time travel, Peter Watts, Blindsight, Recorded Books, the Chinese room argument, artificial intelligence, Spin, Axis, Robert Charles Wilson, Robert J. Sawyer, David Brin, Startide Rising, The Immortal, Roger Zelazny, Audiofile Magazine, George R.R. Martin, A Clash Of Kings, Temüjin, audio drama, Gate, The Sonic Society, Jack J. Ward, Wormwood, acting, Michael Caine, Irwin Allen, The Swarm, Star Wars, Liam Neeson, Thulsa Doom vs. Luke Skywalker, pronunciation, mis-pronunciation, The Savage Sword Of Conan, John Varley, Audible Frontiers.

Subscribe to the feed:

http://www.sffaudio.com/?feed=podcast

Posted by Jesse Willis

CBC Radio One’s Words At Large talks to Michael Chabon

SFFaudio Online Audio

CBC Radio Podcast - Words At LargeThe Words At Large podcast has an interview with Michael Chabon that aired last year on CBC Radio One’s Writers & Company. The interviewer, Eleanor Wachtel, talks to Chabon about his latest novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. Here’s the description:

Part science fiction, part hardboiled whodunit, the novel takes place a world where Israel doesn’t exist. Instead, Europe’s Jewish refugees who fled the Holocaust ended up in the “temporary” safe haven of the Federal District of Sitka, in Alaska. Now, six decades later, the district is slated to return to Alaskan control, and the vibrant Yiddish community is threatened. But homicide detective Meyer Landsman’s most immediate concern is figuring out who murdered a former chess prodigy virtually right under his nose.

Chabon is the acclaimed author of seven novels, including The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which won the Pulitzer Prize, as well as two books of short fiction and a collection of essays. The Yiddish Policemen’s Union garnered a fistful of prizes, including the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award and the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. A film adaptation of the book, to be written and directed by the Oscar-winning Coen Brothers, is currently in pre-production and is scheduled for release in 2010.

Michael Chabon spoke to Eleanor Wachtel from a studio in Oakland, California. They discuss where his love of the fantastic comes from and why he takes such pleasure in mixing up literary genres.

Have a listen |MP3| direct, or subscribe to the Writers & Company podcast feed:

http://www.cbc.ca/podcasting/includes/writersandco.xml

Posted by Jesse Willis

P.S. CBC Radio One still has Apocalypse Al under lock and key. For shame!

Barnes & Noble Media Direct MP3 Links of Speculative Fiction Authors

OnlineAudio

We had a post a few days ago about the Barnes & Noble Media original interviews. Here are the direct links to a couple of the speculative fiction authors featured:

Holly Black |MP3|
Terry Brooks |MP3|
Michael Chabon |MP3|
Susanna Clarke |MP3|
Neil Gaiman |MP3|
Philippa Gregory |MP3|
Laurell K. Hamilton |MP3|
Charlaine Harris |MP3|
Kim Harrison |MP3|
Brian Jacques |MP3|
Jonathan Lethem |MP3|
Lois Lowry |MP3|
Gregory Maguire |MP3|
Garth Nix |MP3|
Chuck Palahniuk |MP3|
Christopher Paolini |MP3|
Terry Pratchett |MP3|
Anne Rice |MP3|
R.A. Salvatore |MP3|

Subscribe to the podcast via this feed:
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/rss/mtw.xml

Posted by Charles Tan