Book Review: The Lost City of Z

O.K., with the second book review being done here and having a title that starts with, “The Lost City of……,” well, you might see a pattern. Yes, lost cities, old, forgotten histories, and places all but forgotten are of real interest to me (and hopefully you). Indeed, when a civilization can thrive, and even be the “center of the world” for a time, and then disappear, seemingly into thin air, well, I find that intriguing. Clearly I’m not alone as in both books reviewed so far, many-a-would-be “lost city discoverer” has gone missing in search of, just like they city they sought. These ill-fated adventures add significantly to the mystique and make the reading so much more intense. Truth be told, nothing impacts more than a true story. After all, fiction and fantasy is just that, fiction and fantasy. But real accounts of huge expeditions setting out to find a supposedly “lost city,” some 1500-strong in terms of people, and then vanishing themselves with no evidence found? Well, hence this new book review and recommendation. I was hooked from page 1 (turns out this is kind of a pre-requisite to keep me reading).

 A map showing the last-known route of British explorer Percy Fawcett and party. They vanished without a trace, spurring many ill-fated attempts to locate them…spawning one of the greatest, explorer-based mysteries of our time. Image Courtesy: CoolInterestingStuff

A map showing the last-known route of British explorer Percy Fawcett and party. They vanished without a trace, spurring many ill-fated attempts to locate them…spawning one of the greatest, explorer-based mysteries of our time. Image Courtesy: CoolInterestingStuff

The Lost City of Z

Set in varying locales between London, England, and its storied Royal Geographical Society, to Sri Lanka to the hot and inhospitable (to say the least) jungles of the Amazon Basin, The Lost City of Z by David Grann tells the story of Percy Fawcett, noted as “the last, pre-technology explorer”…and a person who, along with his son, literally vanished without a trace. Well, there might be some traces, but you’ll need to check out the book to get the full score. In any case, this is a wonderful adventure book that spans the fields of British explorer history, archaeology, British imperialism, native populations of the Amazon and, so interestingly, the hugely-limiting technologies of the day. GPS? What is that? Try a sextant on a clear night to approximate your fix. But still…when you’re starving to death and surrounded by natives that would prefer to have you for dinner, well, if you’re Percy Fawcett, you shrug it off, dog on and drive through. This is a story of perseverance, an insatiable quest for knowledge about the unknown and, of course, tragedy. Just what did happen to the man who mapped the Amazon??? Author David Gann makes this an amazing read.

 Colonel Percy Fawcett (second from the left in the foreground) and other members of his party while on a mapping expedition in the Amazon Basin, circa 1916. Image Courtesy: Adventure Journal

Colonel Percy Fawcett (second from the left in the foreground) and other members of his party while on a mapping expedition in the Amazon Basin, circa 1916. Image Courtesy: Adventure Journal

Fortunately, a major motion picture was created after the book (see the trailer above). So, you can, “read the book and watch the movie.” Many “book-movie combos” don’t work out well….with usually the movie failing. I have to admit I haven’t seen the movie yet (on my list), so we shall see. If anything, it’ll get me into the Amazon jungle without the risk of malaria or being eaten by a crocodile! That said, the movie earned an esteemed 3.5 out of 4 stars from Roger Ebert…so it looks to be good! Enjoy!



Dan Meyers