Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Lost City of the Monkey God

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
Grand Central Publishing: 1/3/17
eBook review copy; 336 pages
hardcover ISBN-13: 9781455540006

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston is a very highly recommended true adventure with new discoveries and hidden dangers.

Preston takes us along on an archeological search set deep into unexplored areas of the Honduran jungle in search of the White City or the City of the Monkey God. Rumors, with locals and previous explorers, have abounded for years of its existence, and that it is, perhaps, cursed. Along with the current expedition, he provides us with the background information of other searches for the city, the history of the area, and explains the current technology (LiDAR) that made it possible to pin point the location(s) of the ruins of a lost city in the jungle.

It is risky enough going on an expedition to a rain forest jungle, let alone an area untouched by humans for centuries. There are frightening encounters with poisonous snakes (the fer-de-lance encounter will sober anyone up), jaguars, spiders, scorpions, roaches, sand flies, mosquitoes, and diseases, like malaria, dengue fever and the leishmaniasus. They also need to avoid any drug cartel members. Adding to the mix were the intricate politics involved with mounting an expedition (or flying a plane in the area). It is an incredible, riveting account and had me glued to the pages.

The academics who wrote a letter criticizing the expedition and had other colleagues and students sign it really was, simply put, obvious professional jealousy. The whole tone of it was petty and accused the team, who were all serious and respectful of the historical significance of the site for the Honduran people, of ignoring previous research. This was untrue. One academic even mocked the team for the size of the lost city until it was correctly pointed out that he had misread the scale bars. (Really makes a nice professional statement about academia, huh?) For the record, ten PhD scientists were involved with the expedition, in contrast to the complaining scholars who had never been to the site.

After returning home, it was discovered that half of the expedition, including 
Preston, had been infected with leishmaniasus, an awful incurable disease. They expedition members didn't know they had it until months after they returned home. It changes the tone of the account, but also provides valuable clues about the White City.

The Lost City of the Monkey God is a riveting account made even more descriptive and dramatic by Preston's prose. He's an extraordinary writer and brings all his abilities on board with this book. He had a National Geographic article published about the find first. This is nonfiction, but covers all the bases of a thriller. It is scary, exciting, informative, serious, dramatic, and engrossing, from start to finish. It's a winner and a great book to start off the new year.

Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of Grand Central Publishing.

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