by Douglas Preston
(3.91 stars – Goodreads rating)
Published January 3, 2017, by Grand Central Publishing
Format: Kindle Edition
Page Count: 336
No civilization has survived forever. All move toward dissolution, one after the other, like waves of the sea falling upon the shore. None, including ours, is exempt from the universal fate.
In 1995, Douglas Preston and co-author BFF Lincoln Child took us on a journey to the jungles of Brazil where artifacts were found and returned to the US along with a deadly beast called Mbwun. Mbwun then began hunting and killing humans for their hypothalamus. It was all frightfully creepy and thrilling. Fictional, but still thrilling.
Over two decades later, Preston takes us back to the dark, dangerous jungle but this time, in real life. Armed with a Nikon camera, plenty of Deet, and some snake gaiters, Preston takes off in a rickety plane following a dream and some pictures of impressions in the earth taken by NASA’s LIDAR machine. This is the true story of his harrowing trip to Mosquitia, deep inside the Honduran interior with a group of archeologists, scientists, photographers, and “money men” to rediscover La Ciudad Blanca (The White City), previously known as the Lost City of the Monkey God. Mbwun, thankfully, wasn’t a threat to this expedition; however, there were many other all-too-real hazards the group faced in the sweltering wilderness of Central America.
It was truly a lost world, a place that did not want us and where we did not belong.
Preston was on site as a correspondent for National Geographic magazine. The expedition’s efforts to prove the city existed, find the city and then get permission from the unstable Honduran government to actually go there turned out to be only a small portion of the challenges they faced. The “lost” city was reputed to have been immensely wealthy and well-stocked with treasure and priceless artifacts. Those claims were nearly impossible to verify, however, due to its remote location and the various bands of murderous drug cartels and criminal gangs that surrounded the area. Not to mention that invasion of the city was rumored to result in a lethal curse.
Preston also tells of the deadly snakes, the inhospitable spider monkeys, campsites blanketed with cockroaches, sucking mud holes, relentless mosquitos and sand flies, and roaming jaguars that stalked the camp every night. And just like in Relic, after the expedition was over, the team managed to bring a little something back with them.
OK, no, it wasn’t Mbwun, but it wasn’t just lovely pictures either.
‘And then,’ said Nash, ‘you intruded. You were a mistake.’ By invading the valley, we were like clueless civilians wandering onto a battlefield and getting shot to pieces in the crossfire.
This was a great book even for devout lovers of fiction like myself. There was mystery, danger, political corruption, drug smuggling, an intriguing archeological find, and then to top it all off, a pesky infectious disease. A little something for everyone.
Once upon a time, Preston managed to make history museums even creepier for those who get skittish in half-lit rooms surrounded by dusty, dated artifacts. This time, he manages to scare the heck out of all of us – not by fear of a deadly, hypothalamus-eating sci-fi beast, but by fear of the effects of uncontrollable, unrelenting deforestation and the inevitability of the next inescapable, deadly global pandemic.
About the Author
After unaccountably being rejected by Stanford University (a pox on it), Preston attended Pomona College in Claremont, California, where he studied mathematics, biology, physics, anthropology, and geology, before settling down to English literature. After graduating, Preston began his career at the American Museum of Natural History in New York as an editor, writer, and manager of publications. Preston also taught nonfiction writing at Princeton University. His eight-year stint at the Museum resulted in the non-fiction book, Dinosaurs in the Attic, edited by a rising young star at St. Martin’s Press, Lincoln Child. During this period, Preston gave Child a midnight tour of the museum, and in the darkened Hall of Late Dinosaurs, under a looming T. Rex, Child turned to Preston and said: “This would make the perfect setting for a thriller!” That thriller would, of course, be Relic.