(By: Steve Michaels- Denver, Co. 12/26/16)
Nonfiction offers its own unique reading experience as opposed to most fiction. Whereas a fiction story is carried by the author’s ability to weave a compelling narrative and pepper it with enough facts and details to make it interesting and believable, a nonfiction writer has to do just the opposite. Armed with as many facts, data, personal accounts, and other bits of information that their research provides, the writer has to compile these in a way that doesn’t sound as if they are writing an encyclopedia article, or a school textbook (unless, of course, that is their goal. I’m specifically talking about nonfiction that is written more for entertainment, as opposed to something written as a clinical or educational piece).
The Lost City of the Monkey God, also known as The White City, has been a staple of Honduran folklore for generations. This city was said to be a place of refuge and a storehouse of treasures for the indigenous peoples during the time of the Spanish conquest of the area. There are rumors of a deadly curse that guards the area, one whose existence is bolstered by strange happenings and often inexplicable occurrences surrounding those that have gone to look for the lost city.
Undeterred by this, in 2012 author Douglas Preston joined an expedition to the rain forest of southern Honduras to map areas of interest using a relatively new application of a laser imaging technology called Lidar, which bounces 100,000 individual laser pulses per second off an object and records distance in a way much like radar does with sound. It can be used to penetrate gaps in dense foliage to model a map of what’s below. This generated map offered sufficient evidence for the mounting of a second expedition in 2015, which Preston also joined. This time they were headed in on the ground, with the hopes of using the aerial maps to ‘ground truth’ their findings. Preston details his journeys in his gripping newest release “The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story”.
Preston’s background as a writer for such publications as National Geographic, Smithsonian, and the New Yorker, mixed with his prowess as an engaging bestselling author of page turning thrillers makes for an extremely informative yet harrowingly engrossing read. In a narrative that feels like an excerpt from the adventures of Indiana Jones, Preston chronicles the expedition as they deal with corrupt governments, drug cartels, jungle animals, the unforgiving environment, parasitic diseases, and pretty much any other staple of hellish condition known to man.
The motley crew that comprises the expedition make up one of the most eclectic group ever brought to page, in fiction or nonfiction. Preston does an amazing job of bringing their personal motivations and drive to bare, as well as each of their diverse personalities. A personal favorite was the foul mouthed, corpulent, murdering, drug smuggler named Bruce Heinicke. Let’s just say that if it had been him that Greedo had cornered in the Mos Eisley Cantina, well, there would be no question as to who shot first.
Time spent in the jungle and the repercussions of gave Preston ample motivation for rumination. While reflecting on the lessons to be learned from the past, Preston looks into our future as a species and how our actions as a society can and will affect us on a global scale; culturally, socially, and environmentally, as evidenced by the example of the echoes of past civilizations that lie buried and forgotten.
The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story is available everywhere 1/3/2017