Ahoy there me mateys! For those of ye who are new to me log, a word: though this log’s focus is on sci-fi, fantasy, and young adult, this Captain does have broader reading tastes. Occasionally, I will share some novels that I enjoyed that are off the charts (a non sci-fi, fantasy, or young adult novel), as it were. So today I bring ye:
the lost city of z: a tale of deadly obsession in the amazon (David Grann)
This pirate Captain has a slight obsession with exploration, treasure, and secrets. I recently read a fascinating non-fiction book about a stowaway to Antarctica. Then I saw this book about the Amazon which features missing people, a lost city, treasure, exploration, and death. Arrr! A must-read or in this case must-listen.
Now first off all let me just say that I will keep me sharks, kraken, and man-eating white whales. The sea has nothing on the Amazon. The Amazon has so many types of disgusting flesh eating bugs, flesh eating diseases, and flesh eating fish. Ye thought piranhas were bad. Try candiru. Ugh. Sailing that river does not appeal.
What did appeal was the lengths and struggles that man would go to find and conquer nature. Or attempt to conquer it. This novel mostly chronicles the adventures of Percival “Percy” Harrison Fawcett. Percy was a “British geographer, artillery officer, cartographer, archaeologist and explorer of South America.” He became obsessed with finding a lost city in the jungles of Amazon. Some called it El Dorado. He called it Z. Finding the city would consume him and eventually lead to his disappearance in the jungles of Brazil in 1925. What happened to hardened and experienced Percy on that last ill-fated expedition? Author David Grann was determined to solve the centuries old case.
Like the book about Antarctic explorers, this tale was full of details about the lengths to which these men would go to protect “their” finds and their fame. It also showcases how much effort went into planning and funding an expedition. I found the details of the flora, fauna, and geography of the Amazon to be fascinating. The author even portrays his own trip into the jungle in the name of research.
Really the novel is dense with detail and history. It was riveting and seemingly well researched. The only downside I had was the ending which mentioned some interesting new archeology finds in the area of the Kalapalous tribe that may change the entire historical landscape of South America. These findings by Michael Heckenberger were only touched on. I wanted more!
Side note: While researching for this post, I found a rather scathing article by John Hemming on how the author’s book was immensely exaggerated and factually incorrect. For those interested, I include it here for comparison.
Goodreads has this to say about the novel:
A grand mystery reaching back centuries. A sensational disappearance that made headlines around the world. A quest for truth that leads to death, madness or disappearance for those who seek to solve it. The Lost City of Z is a blockbuster adventure narrative about what lies beneath the impenetrable jungle canopy of the Amazon.
After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve “the greatest exploration mystery of the 20th century”: What happened to the British explorer Percy Fawcett & his quest for the Lost City of Z?
In 1925, Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, hoping to make one of the most important discoveries in history. For centuries Europeans believed the world’s largest jungle concealed the glittering kingdom of El Dorado. Thousands had died looking for it, leaving many scientists convinced that the Amazon was truly inimical to humans. But Fawcett, whose daring expeditions inspired Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, had spent years building his scientific case. Captivating the imagination of millions round the globe, Fawcett embarked with his 21-year-old son, determined to prove that this ancient civilisation–which he dubbed Z–existed. Then his expedition vanished. Fawcett’s fate, & the tantalizing clues he left behind about Z, became an obsession for hundreds who followed him into the uncharted wilderness.
For decades scientists & adventurers have searched for evidence of Fawcett’s party & the lost City of Z. Countless have perished, been captured by tribes or gone mad. As Grann delved ever deeper into the mystery surrounding Fawcett’s quest, & the greater mystery of what lies within the Amazon, he found himself, like the generations who preceded him, being irresistibly drawn into the jungle’s green hell. His quest for the truth & discoveries about Fawcett’s fate & Z form the heart of this complexly enthralling narrative.
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