Book Review: Jamestown by Matthew Sharpe

When I made a category in my WordPress account for “Jamestown” back in the Spring, I didn’t expect I’d get much use for it after the America’s 400th festivities. Thanks to Matthew Sharpe, I get to use the tag for a work of speculative fiction. Jamestown (2007) is a very weird novel.

The novel is a retelling of the Jamestown settlement story set in a future dystopia, or as Sharpe puts it “an ahistorical fantasia on a real event.” Luckily for him, and the reader, that phrase is far more pretentious than anything in the book.  It starts with a  group of 30 men set out from Manhattan on board a bus driven by Chris Newport toward the south lands where they hope to trade for oil with the Indians. Much violence, pratfalls, and general unpleasantness ensues.

Funny thing is that as ridiculously imaginative as this book is, it also follows the real Jamestown story fairly accurately. It even gets it right that Pochantas has a romance with Johnny Rolfe not Jack Smith. I love that the president of the Manhattan Company is Jimmy Stuart.  Granted some things are very different such as the cowardly John Martin becoming bolder as he loses body parts until he decides to take over.

Jamestown is at best absurd, and at worst stupid, but always entertaining. The best comparison is John Barth’s Sot-Weed Factor, although Jamestown is thankfully not tedious nor obsessively prurient.  It was fun, mildly painful, mildly educational read.