"A novel in the honorable tradition of Billy Budd and Moby Dick ... heroic in proportion ... fiction that hooks into the mind" -The New York Times Book Review
"Long after we'd stopped believing in the great American novel, along comes a spellbinding adventure story that may be just that" - Chicago Tribune
It is 1830. Rutherford Calhoun, a newly freed slave and irrepressible rouge, is desperate to escape unscrupulous bill collectors and an impending marriage to a priggish schoolteacher. He jumps aboard the first boat leaving New Orleans, the Republic, a slave ship en route to collect members of a legendary African tribe, the Allmuseri. Thus begins a daring voyage of horror and self-discovery.
Peopled with vivid and unforgettable characters, nimble in its interplay of comedy and serious ideas, this dazzling modern classic is a perfect blend of the picaresque tale, historical romance, sea yarn, slave narrative, and philosophical novel.