The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston

The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas PrestonThe Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story by Douglas Preston
on January 3rd, 2017
Genres: History, Memoir
Format: Ebook
Source: NetGalley

A five-hundred-year-old legend. An ancient curse. A stunning medical mystery. And a pioneering journey into the unknown heart of the world's densest jungle.
Since the days of conquistador Hernán Cortés, rumors have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the Honduran interior, called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. Indigenous tribes speak of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish invaders, and they warn that anyone who enters this sacred city will fall ill and die. In 1940, swashbuckling journalist Theodore Morde returned from the rainforest with hundreds of artifacts and an electrifying story of having found the Lost City of the Monkey God-but then committed suicide without revealing its location.
Three quarters of a century later, bestselling author Doug Preston joined a team of scientists on a groundbreaking new quest. In 2012 he climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: lidar, a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization.
Venturing into this raw, treacherous, but breathtakingly beautiful wilderness to confirm the discovery, Preston and the team battled torrential rains, quickmud, disease-carrying insects, jaguars, and deadly snakes. But it wasn't until they returned that tragedy struck: Preston and others found they had contracted in the ruins a horrifying, sometimes lethal-and incurable-disease.
Suspenseful and shocking, filled with colorful history, hair-raising adventure, and dramatic twists of fortune, The Lost City of the Monkey God is the absolutely true, eyewitness account of one of the great discoveries of the twenty-first century.

Douglas Preston is an author more well-known for his works of fiction, and so I will admit I wasn’t quite sure how to take this book when I first started reading it. If you’ve read your average archeological thriller, the promise of a danger-filled adventure through the South American jungle is par for the course. I don’t know whether I was expecting more from the story, or its telling, because of Preston’s reputation, but I found that the book did drag at times, or perhaps become a little prosaic. I also found the lack of a reference map – at least in the digital edition – made it harder to put a lot of the events in context.

The last 20% of the book – give or take – is given over to the author (and the team’s) encounter with the ‘curse’ of the place, which involved being attacked by a horrific parasite I thankfully have never heard of. This certainly added some vim to the tale, which – apart from the odd snake – the story was otherwise lacking. Strangely enough someone linked me to an article promoting the book, which also kind of spoiled the ‘ending’, as I had not yet come across said flesh-eating parasites, but it did motivate me to actually finish the book. He does take a great deal of time speaking about the medical and scientific implications, or consequences of such diseases, while the actual exploration of the City kind of fell a bit flat.

I am a fan of Douglas Preston’s other work for the most part, and his name drew me to the book, as I imagine it will others. It is hard for me to recommend a particular audience for this book, as I struggle to place it in a particular category, because of its journal-style. I think fans of the author may be interested from a personal perspective, but it ultimately lacks some punch. As an author who seems to be simply ‘along for the trip’ I felt that a more scientific, or in-depth point of view would have worked better.

I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Rating Report
Overall: three-stars

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