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The Standing Rabbit

Alaska by James Michener

Alaska by James Michener

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Alaska by James Michener is a 868-page hardcover published in 1988 by Random House.  The dust jacket and book are in good original condition.

Book Summary

Alaska and its numerous islands have for so many thousands of years been occupied by peoples from Siberia that the "discovery" of this continent by Columbus seems like a current event.  Eskimos, Aleuts, Athapascans, Tlingits crossed to the breathtakingly beautiful land in small boats, or, when the floor of the Bering Straight was exposed, they came on foot, as did various huge exotic animals that now no longer exist.  Century after century, with little modification, these people survived, feeding and clothing themselves by their skills as hunters and fishermen.  The beginnings of this novel portrays the lives and struggles of humans and animals of Alaska prehistory, and then the story makes a broad leap into the eighteenth century.

In 1724, shortly before he died, Peter the Great appointed the Danish navigator Vitus Bering to explore the lands that lay beyond the eastern coast of his empire.  The result was that for almost a hundred and fifty years the native Alaskans were under the domination, often cruel, of Russians, whose interest was more in furs than colonization.  Then for some reason not entirely clear, Alaska was sold in 1867 to the United States for $7,200,000.

The exciting high points in the story of Alaska since the America acquisition are brought vividly to life:  the gold rush either over the forbidding Chilkoot Pass or up the Yukon to Dawson, Canada, then later to the golden beaches of Nome; the tremendous growth and exploitation of the salmon industry; the discovery of oil and its social and economic consequences; the difficult construction over permafrost of the Alcan Highway, making possible the defense of the territory in World War II.

The author places his emphasis less on the historic events themselves than on the more than a hundred characters, real or fictional, who made them happen. 

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