God Carlos is the story of a 16th-century Spanish seaman who sails to Jamaica. He participates in the common practice of mistreating the native Arawak Indians. His behavior is blatant in abusing them in physical ways as well as ridiculing them and violating the innocent trust of one Arawak in particular. The seaman, Carlos, wants to be a god, and in actually becoming God Carlos to at least some of the Arawaks, he determines his own fate through an episode of poetic justice.
The book overall is well-written by this multipublished Jamaican author. Winkler is known for his humor, but there is nothing funny in this novel. The content is disturbing and unpleasant in many regards. Some may feel that the Spanish invaders are painted too one-dimensionally as brutal thugs. The Arawaks are almost unbelievably sweet, childish, and trusting, although not all believe that the Europeans are gods. This is a downbeat book for the most part, and the tragic fate of the indigenous West Indian people is general knowledge. That said, Winkler’s descriptions of sea and sky as seen from a sailing ship, and of the physical beauty of Jamaica, are spot-on and breathtaking. Readers may not love this story, but they will be on a cruise to Jamaica as soon as possible.