I was overwhelmed by this book. My review of it at my LibraryThing account was ridiculously brief:
A stale genre with a tired, down-trodden protagonist in an empty, hopeless setting, and yet this book is the most vibrant thing I've read in years.It's a noir detective story (alcoholic detective investigates the murder of drug-addicted chess prodigy) in an alternative history setting (a Jewish refugee homeland in Alaska). We're at the end of the rope here: the main character is spiraling down the drain, and the district is about to revert to native Tlingit ownership, once again sending the Jews wandering (there is no state of Israel). There's nothing here but numb despair, and yet...it's funny and moving and hopeful.
There's an interview with Chabon (pronounced, I've only recently learned, SHAY-bon) at The A.V. Club where he says some interesting things about his own creative process and about the cultural status of "genre fiction." But don't go read that: read The Yiddish Policemen's Union instead.