The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story by Douglas Preston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Special thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
It's no secret that I love Douglas Preston. I've read (and reread) his co-authored Special Agent Pendergast series multiple times. I've worked with the publishers for the past few years for ARCs of that series and interviewed Mr. Preston and Lincoln Child, his Pendergast co-author. I've read pretty much everything they've both ever written, with a few things still remaining on my to-read pile.
I also love adventure stories. Lost temples, jungle treks, scary wildlife, special teams going in to discover the past... so when I saw this one hit Netgalley, I knew I had to request it. I subscribe to Preston's email newsletters, and I was aware of his long-term interest in the lost White City of Honduras. I paid attention when they used the lidar to map some potential locations of this city in the Honduran jungles, and gobbled up details when they set out on their expedition.
This book provides Preston's account of his take on the whole scenario -- from the history of the search for the lost city, to his actual involvement, to the aftereffects of that fateful journey. It's a solid read, which I expect from Preston, who is a fantastic writer.
My biggest gripe is the end. I know it's a non-fiction weaving of historical detail into modern day adventure memoir, but the last few chapters focus solely on the deadly and scary disease that affects much of the third world, and hit many of the explorers. It turns from a lesson on the White City and a recording of the adventure into a public service notice about the future of the disease and the need for treatments to be researched and available to all, not only because the disease is quickly passing from third world into first world, but mostly because of the millions of people it affects and the tens of thousands it kills on a yearly basis in the third world, where they have no financial ability to pay for treatment and big pharm sees no profit in it.
Don't get me wrong -- I entirely agree with Preston's views on the subject. I think my problem was that the book was about the adventure into what might have been the source for the legends of the Lost City of the Monkey God, so rather than ending on the disease chapters, those could have been put into the middle and the ending been something more suited to the adventurous side of the tale and how much more we have to learn from the past.
Just my opinion, but that's what reviews are. Either way, I read very little non-fiction, and this book kept my focus and my attention, and showcases Preston's strong talents. You should really take the opportunity to follow in Preston and team's footsteps into the jungles of Honduras. Just watch out for the venomous and aggressive fer-de-lance snakes and the leish-transmitting sandflies... among the bazillion other deadly things waiting for you out there. Lucky for you, you're safe on your couch. ;)
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