A whimsical debut novel featuring a bumbling adventurer who’s in over his head but quick on his feet.
At the heart of Horowitz’s work is Humboldt “Humby” Yolo Stanislaus IV, a native of California’s Gold Rush country in the modern day. A recent graduate of Fool’s Gold Community College, Humby is still trying to find his way in life, like many people his age, and his degree in gold prospecting certainly isn’t going to help him. As a graduation gift, his parents give him a trip to Bermuda, and while he’s walking on a beach, he trips over a green bottle in the sand that has a map inside it. Upon his return to the States, Humby takes the bottle to Buttercup Flutter, the Fool’s Gold librarian. After she contacts the Library of Congress, he’s flown to Washington, D.C., to speak with government agents about his discovery. The map is of New Britannia, a small island near the Azores. It was secretly established during the Revolutionary War, when relatives of famous colonial leaders relocated there temporarily, intending to return when England won. Now, the descendants of the original settlers are ruled by a woman called “Countess,” who’s related to King George III. Humby is sent to infiltrate New Britannia, but his mission to hide defense intelligence there soon proves problematic, due to his lack of impulse control. Horowitz has created an enjoyable, speculative scenario that asks what would have happened if England continued to rule an American colony. The author’s intriguing answer: Pretty much what happened in the United States, except that in this case, it takes a whole lot longer for modern-day descendants of Jefferson, Franklin, and Washington to reject taxation without representation. Throughout, Horowitz’s narrative is outlandish and amusing as Humby serves as a catalyst for the revolution in his own fumbling way—even though most people in New Britannia think him deranged. Many readers will find it to be a rollicking good read.
A fun alternative-history tale about a much-delayed American Revolution.