I just finished this book in preparation for a trip to Alaska in half a year, and highly recommend it for those who want a sense of Alaska's history and culture. The nature of the book is to help people understand the history of the area, its geography, and what daily life was like from earliest times to the present (or at least to the 1980s when it was written). The characters are generally representative of the kinds of people who have lived and presently live in Alaska, showing their differing ideas, lifestyles, and backgrounds with some real historical characters described as well. The different characters and their descendents intersect each other's lives to form somewhat of a plot line, but plot and character development are secondary to showing the geography, culture and lifestyles, etc., of the peoples of Alaska. Michener has creative ways of bringing out explanations of how things worked by having some characters ask others about it, etc., and this he does with such smoothness that it seems natural to the storyline. It is masterfully written, and in the end, one does have a good idea of the history of Alaska and the differing cultures and ideas which have dominated at various times in its past. There are some maps included, and a section explaining which parts of the book are historical and which are fictional, which is very helpful.