The Yiddish Policemen's Union
Author: Michael Chabon
The first half of The Yiddish Policeman's Union is fantastic. Chabon imagines an alternate universe where the United States government resettled European Jews in Alaska during World War II (contrary to real history and the U.S. government's callous disregard for European Jewry in the early days of the Holocaust).
The novel hints at other changes to the historic record—JFK escaping assassination and marrying Marilyn Monroe, and the nuclear destruction of Berlin, among others—but the description of Sitka, the imaginary Alaskan city that is the setting for the beginning of the book, is gloriously evocative: detailed, gritty, and, above all, real. Which makes it all the more disappointing when the story leaves Sitka and embarks on a geo-political science fiction joy ride, complete with an American-backed bombing of the Dome of the Rock (by neo-Zionists, in order to inflame anti-Muslim feeling).
It feels cheap to call a book this well written "bad" simply because of its fantastical plot. But there, we said it. —Jack Erwin