Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Review: The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

Title: Lost City of the Monkey God

Author: Douglas Preston

Audience: Adult

Rating (scale of 1-10): 9
TL;DR: Amateur archaeologists scour the Honduran jungle for traces of a legendary lost civilization.

Appeal: Fast-paced, suspenseful

Longer review:  
The Mosquitia region of Honduras harbors the densest and least-explored jungle in the Americas. Now impinged upon mostly by drug-smugglers, Mosquitia once was home to a culture that rivaled the Maya in their sophistication and the size of their cities. Before the events chronicled in this book, the history of that lost civilization was confined to a few small archaeological finds and a whole host of legends. One rumor spoke of an abandoned city deep in the jungle where a huge idol of a monkey lay partially buried: the lost city of the monkey god.

Often dismissed as local legend or the stories of charlatan treasure hunters, it was up to a team of obsessive searchers to run down the legend and establish it as fact or fiction. Douglas Preston, in his capacity of writer for National Geographic and other publications, was along for the very bumpy ride. Whether the jungle hides a lost city or not, it certainly hides deadly snakes, prowling jaguars, swarms of disease-carrying insects, and in politically-troubled Honduras, perhaps drug-smugglers and revolutionaries.  Preston’s pedigree as part of a thriller-writing team shines through, and the book leaves the reader just as breathless as if they were themselves scrabbling through the jungle underbrush in search of an ancient city lost to the knowledge of men.

Read-alikes:  Luckily, tropical exploration seems to be a pretty rich area when it comes to adventure writing.  There are plenty of choices for read-alikes by subject - these two were popular enough that they’re probably in most collections.

The Lost City of Z: by David Grann - Journalist Grann traces the fate of a British explorer who never returned from an expedition to discover a lost civilization in the depths of the Amazon.  A few years old now, but being turned into a movie, and so back in the public eye.

River of Doubt: by Candice Millard - Teddy Roosevelt, fresh off an election defeat, ventures into the Amazon on an ill-planned expedition to map an unexplored region.  With the former president wounded and infected, the trip takes a turn towards disaster.

~ Seth Warburton

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