The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston: A Review


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The Lost City of the Monkey God is a non-fiction book by National Geographic writer Douglas Preston.  Douglas Preston accompanies a group of researchers to a remote area of Honduras, Mosquitia, which legends suggest is the home to a lost city, Ciudad Blanca, also known as the City of the Monkey God.  The author describes how lidar is used to make a map of the area, confirming that there was a civilization there.  He and a team also travel into the area to view the ruins themselves, uncovering a massive ruin with previously untouched artifacts.  The type of people that lived in the area was described as having a rich culture that had ties to the Mayans but confirmed that the Mayans were not the inhabitants of the Ciudad Blanca, the White City.  The city was likely abandoned due to disease, which the author came across first-hand when he came down with a very hard to treat parasite, leishmaniosis, which can cause the entire loss of a nose or face, in some cases. 

There were some parts of this book that moved a bit slow, due to being a little overly technical.  Someone with more of an interest in surveying (like my surveyor father) would find discussions of lidar and GPS equipment fascinating but I was more interested in the culture of the people that lived in Mosquitia.  I was not disappointed!  I was excited to learn about a culture that I had previously no knowledge about.  The people indigenous to the area were not Mayans but had some ties to them, due to trade, and some of their culture seemed to mimic that of the Mayans.  I was also intrigued to learn about the illnesses that plague the area, mostly due to the insects that are rampant, and the horrors of the fer-de-lance snake (including the frightening picture at the end of the book).  The book does contain a brief modern history lesson of Honduras and explains how the excavations were effected by that history and the current political and economic climate of the area.  I felt the author’s frustration when he described the criticism that the team received on release of news of the discovery and felt equally frustrated that academic competition continually thwarts advancements and discoveries.  Overall, this was a really great book.  If you are a reader that does not enjoy the technical nitty gritty that some non-fiction books have a lot of, keep reading past the half-way point of this book, as I don’t think you will be disappointed.  Another great book to read about the culture of the Americas prior to Columbus is Charles Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.  

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This book was released on January 3, 2017 and can be purchased at booksellers, such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  Read additional reviews of this book on Goodreads.

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