Monday, September 28, 2009
The Lost City of Z by David Grann
Title: The Lost City of Z
Author: David Grann
Illustrator: David Cain
The Lost City of Z is not just the tragic story of a man obsessed with finding a lost civilization in the jungles of the Amazon. It is also the story of an author determined to find out what happened to him and what he learns along the way.
When I first glanced at the cover of the book and skimmed the blurb, I was expecting it to be a Dan Brown-esqe style of story about a man who searches for a great mystery and finds it before dying, only to have another man come along later to rediscover the mystery. A few weeks later, I heard more about the book and found out it was a true story. And after reading it, I was pretty close with my first impression.
While the plot moves slowly at times, especially early on, there is a great mystery and there is a great reveal. To set the playing field, Grann begins by giving the reader an idea of what the Amazonian explorer Percy "Colonel" Fawcett accomplished early in his career. For nearly ten years, Fawcett explored much of the Amazon and was well-known for his discoveries. World War I interrupted his career, but when it ended, he promptly went back to the Amazon for more exploring.
All of this leads up to his quest for the city of "Z" (his code-name for the ancient city) that he had become obsessed with over time. Many other explorers believed in an ancient civilization and some sort of Atlantis or Eden-like city. So in 1925, Fawcett, his son, and his son's friend go back to the Amazon in search of the city. They never returned.
Since then, many other explorers, rescuers, and researchers went to the jungles of the Amazon to search for Fawcett, his lost city, or both. Many never survived. Even as recently as 1996 explorers were kidnapped and ransomed.
Enter the author, David Grann. During his research he became obsessed with Fawcett (but not so much in the lost city). He tracked down descendants of Fawcett and reviewed private letters, journals, and other papers that have never been released. He made some discoveries (such as the likely route Fawcett took) but the journey he made was the most interesting.
In the end, where the book gets better, Grann travels to the Amazon and is shocked to see no jungle. Years of logging have reduced it to flat plains for grazing cattle and growing crops. I never expected it to be compared to the plains of Nebraska. He also discovers what was most likely the last sighting of Fawcett as well as the ancient city he was searching for. That's right, an ancient city in the Amazon.
Don't believe me? Then read the book. It'll be worth your time. It's a great story about obsession, the death of cultures, and even makes a great companion novel for LOST fans.