Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union won the Hugo in 2008. Given my low opinion of recent Hugo winners, this isn’t particularly a recommendation. And I only kind of liked Kavalier and Clay, and was deeply meh-ish about Gentlemen of the Road.
But hey, on the other hand, Yiddish Policemen’s Union features a deadbeat burned-out alcoholic cop, a heroin addict junkie murdered in a flophouse, and a sense of sleaze and doom that pervades the characters, the setting, and the plot, which is a mood that I absolutely loathe in books, so… okay, wait, that’s actually the same hand.
Given everything that’s working against this book, I in retrospect wonder why I read it at all (true answer: I remember liking Kavalier and Clay a lot more than that booklog entry would indicate, which means that either it grew on me or I just have a bad memory), and it’s a miracle that I finished it and didn’t hate it.
But “didn’t hate it” is, you’ll note, faint praise. So let me give it stronger praise: This is an objectively good book, maybe even a great one. It’s literary in the best sense and has all kinds of thematic depth and resonance (though I found one major plot point a bit too on-the-nose for either satire or alternate history); it’s absolutely a book that should be winning awards, and it does the Hugo credit that its voters thought so. I didn’t much like it, but I do respect it.