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« The Pharaoh's Key by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child | Main | The Storm Before the Storm by Mike Duncan »
Tuesday
Jul102018

The Lost City of the Monkey God By Douglas Preston

Why I read this book:

Douglas Preston received an award at the Maine Crime Wave 2018 and gave a fantastic talk that inspired me to buy one of his books. As a journalist, he's lived a life that is straight out of an adventure novel. It's no wonder he's written several fiction novels as well as non-fictional recounts of some of the adventures he's been on. The Lost City of the Monkey God details the re-discovery of forgotten ruins in the remotest Honduran jungles using LIDAR and the subsequent expedition to confirm the results.

My one sentence summary:

A team of scientists, a journalist and ex-commandos enter the deadly jungles of the Mosquitia jungle in Honduras to find a civilization left to mythology and a deadly infection.

Kudos:

Preston has got some real characters in this book from the former military specialists to the fixer who knows exactly who to bribe. The details on the scientific tools used to locate the ruins is well balanced with personal stories, threats of dire consequences and humor. Once the team is on the ground, the real adventure and hardships begin. Their discovery is appropriately put into historical context as well. Preston strikes a balance between reporting and story telling that makes for a griping adventure.

Quibbles:

Before getting to the meat of the story, Preston builds the groundwork for the historical context of the search for the White City. He details no only the reported attempts but tries to pin down their exact location. This preamble was interesting to a point but the detailed debunking of the previous failed attempts got a little long when I was more interested in getting to the team that would actually get to the ruins. Especially after the opening teaser about how dangerous the jungle they were about to enter was. I found myself having similar feelings in the epilogue which focused on the mysterious disease that some of the members of the team acquired. As someone interested in virology and parasites, I was interested in some of the details of the infection as well as the treatment. However, it felt like it dragged.

Final verdict:

Forgotten ruins in a deadly jungle filled with nacros, jaguars, disease carrying mosquitoes in a country with a new government trying to establish its legitimacy, you can't ask for a more gripping pretense. A high recommend to anyone who likes adventure archeology with a dash of science and medicine. Just don't be surprised if the beginning and end drag a little.

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