The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This will make you feel like a kid again! It will ignite a Jonny Quest kind of desire for adventure, to dive into the jungle in search of lost worlds.
This will also quench most desires to ever take one step closer to a jungle.
"Z" is supposedly a long lost South American city of a once powerful people. Think El Dorado. Did it ever really exist? Finding out was the self-imposed task of an almost legend of a man who lives up to the myth:
Famous British explorer Percy Harrison Fawcett...
A military man with an athlete's physique and a cast iron constitution, Fawcett made the perfect explorer. As fortune would have it, he lived in a time and place where conquering the last of our Earth's unknowns was in high fashion: Victorian England.
I've read a few of these sorts of books and I've come to expect the unavoidable asides. After all, to take this book as an example, there is always going to be more to the story than just one man trying to find one lost city. The Lost City of Z is fattened by many an aside discussing the myriad of Victorian era explorers who threw themselves into harm's way for glory and adventure. It was almost like a game to them, a great race to see who could get there first, be it the depths of the jungle or the arctic pole.
Author David Grann juggles these stories well, never dropping the main story, at least no more than necessary to incorporate the interesting details from these off-shoot tales that help the reader to better understand the mindset of the times or to underscore the perils of such treks into the unknown.
In the process of putting this book together, tracking Fawcett became Grann's adventure. However, it turned out to be one shared by many.
Fawcett went on numerous South American explorations with varying degrees of success and always emerging - though slightly worse for wear - in relatively good health compared to the many who perished along the way. However, after disappearing into the jungle one last time, with his son and a friend in-tow on this occasion, Fawcett disappeared forever. In the years that followed, finding Fawcett became a new kind of sport that swept the world. Many expeditions set out to find and bring the man back, dead or alive.
As you read The Lost City of Z you begin to form the opinion that "dead" is the only possible outcome for anyone foolish enough to set foot in the jungle. Grann's descriptions of the jungle's deprivations felt to me like watching a David Attenborough nature program in Feel-o-vision...every sting, bite and virulent disease feels like its invading your body. I itched unconsciously at every mention of the ubiquitous insects. I swore my skin creeped and I could feel a fever coming on. So, if you've got Indiana Jones aspirations, this is the cure!