The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story

The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story

A five-hundred-year-old legend. An ancient curse. A stunning medical mystery. And a pioneering journey into the unknown heart of the world's densest jungle.Since the days of conquistador Hernán Cortés, rumors have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the Honduran interior, called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. Indigenous tr...

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Title:The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story
Author:Douglas Preston
Rating:
ISBN:1455540005
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:304 pages

The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story Reviews

  • Magdalena
    Dec 27, 2016

    As a longtime fan of the Pendergast series that Douglas Preston writes together with Lincoln Child was I curious to read this non-fiction book about a lost city. Personally, I find mysteries likes this very intriguing. I mean a lost city that is mentioned in old documents, but no one has found? What's not to like? And, what makes this book so fantastic is that Douglas Preston himself was part of the expedition to what could be White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. A place where no one h

    As a longtime fan of the Pendergast series that Douglas Preston writes together with Lincoln Child was I curious to read this non-fiction book about a lost city. Personally, I find mysteries likes this very intriguing. I mean a lost city that is mentioned in old documents, but no one has found? What's not to like? And, what makes this book so fantastic is that Douglas Preston himself was part of the expedition to what could be White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. A place where no one has been for centuries, a place with a lot of deadly creatures like the deadly fer-de-lance, one of the most deadly snakes on the planet.

    The Lost City of the Monkey God captivated me from the beginning, Preston has written a well-researched book, which gives the reader both the historical background as well as the impressions from the expedition. I always love books that are entertaining and learning as well, and Preston has managed that. The only thing I found a bit dreary was the technical descriptions of the equipment that they used to pinpoint the city, but I got the gist and that was enough for me. I'm just not that interested in technical things so stuff like that always makes me a bit bored. But, I fully understand the need for it to be included in the story. Especially since it pissed of archaeologists who thinks that it's cheating to use lidar to find lost cities. I loved that part of the story, how petty some archaeologists were.

    As much as I enjoyed reading the historical background must I admit that reading about the expedition, how they were the first ones there were very thrilling. I could easily picture the scenery and I found the discovery of the city and artifacts fascinating. Although I'm not sure I would want to travel there with all the bugs and deadly snakes.

    The Lost City of the Monkey God was a truly great book. I loved learning more about the history of Honduras and it made me sad to think how the Europeans arrival pretty much killed off most of the natives all over America thanks to the sickness they brought with them.

  • Steven
    Dec 28, 2016

    Special thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

    It's no secret that I love Douglas Preston. I've read (and reread) his co-authored Special Agent Pendergast series multiple times. I've worked with the publishers for the past few years for ARCs of that series and interviewed Mr. Preston and Lincoln Child, his Pendergast co-author. I've read pretty much everything they've both ever written, with a few things still remaining on my to-read p

    Special thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

    It's no secret that I love Douglas Preston. I've read (and reread) his co-authored Special Agent Pendergast series multiple times. I've worked with the publishers for the past few years for ARCs of that series and interviewed Mr. Preston and Lincoln Child, his Pendergast co-author. I've read pretty much everything they've both ever written, with a few things still remaining on my to-read pile.

    I also love adventure stories. Lost temples, jungle treks, scary wildlife, special teams going in to discover the past... so when I saw this one hit Netgalley, I knew I had to request it. I subscribe to Preston's email newsletters, and I was aware of his long-term interest in the lost White City of Honduras. I paid attention when they used the lidar to map some potential locations of this city in the Honduran jungles, and gobbled up details when they set out on their expedition.

    This book provides Preston's account of his take on the whole scenario -- from the history of the search for the lost city, to his actual involvement, to the aftereffects of that fateful journey. It's a solid read, which I expect from Preston, who is a fantastic writer.

    My biggest gripe is the end. I know it's a non-fiction weaving of historical detail into modern day adventure memoir, but the last few chapters focus solely on the deadly and scary disease that affects much of the third world, and hit many of the explorers. It turns from a lesson on the White City and a recording of the adventure into a public service notice about the future of the disease and the need for treatments to be researched and available to all, not only because the disease is quickly passing from third world into first world, but mostly because of the millions of people it affects and the tens of thousands it kills on a yearly basis in the third world, where they have no financial ability to pay for treatment and big pharm sees no profit in it.

    Don't get me wrong -- I entirely agree with Preston's views on the subject. I think my problem was that the book was about the adventure into what might have been the source for the legends of the Lost City of the Monkey God, so rather than ending on the disease chapters, those could have been put into the middle and the ending been something more suited to the adventurous side of the tale and how much more we have to learn from the past.

    Just my opinion, but that's what reviews are. Either way, I read very little non-fiction, and this book kept my focus and my attention, and showcases Preston's strong talents. You should really take the opportunity to follow in Preston and team's footsteps into the jungles of Honduras. Just watch out for the venomous and aggressive fer-de-lance snakes and the leish-transmitting sandflies... among the bazillion other deadly things waiting for you out there. Lucky for you, you're safe on your couch. ;)

  • Kevin Parsons
    Nov 12, 2016

    What a wonderful book. It was both an adventure along the lines of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (without the raiding part!) as well as a professionally reported story of the exploration of an ancient archeological site located in the rain forests of Honduras. Preston covers many of the complicated implications of this scientific expedition and he does so in a way that always remains interesting and pushes the story forward. He includes comments and opinions of not just those involved in the expedit

    What a wonderful book. It was both an adventure along the lines of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" (without the raiding part!) as well as a professionally reported story of the exploration of an ancient archeological site located in the rain forests of Honduras. Preston covers many of the complicated implications of this scientific expedition and he does so in a way that always remains interesting and pushes the story forward. He includes comments and opinions of not just those involved in the expedition, but those who objected to it and had issues and concerns with the conclusions.

    I was able to read this book because my librarian wife received the ARC. The book will be published in January. I highly recommend buying this book. Even those readers who come to Preston through his Pendergast books and prefer fiction will find plenty of interest in this book. If you have a phobia about snakes, however, then you might want to give this one a pass!

    As a side note, while I am a Kindle reader and a big proponent of ebooks and feel quite differently about the motives of Amazon in the book industry, those differences with the opinions of Mr Preston do not stop me from enjoying his books or ultimately respecting his talents. Honestly, the events of the election make any contention over the book industry seem so minor as to be meaningless.

  • Nikki
    Dec 27, 2016

    Received to review via Netgalley

    The problem with books like this is that they can come across as way too sensational, and like they’re stirring up a story about a non-event. I was a little hesitant to read this because of that, plus a lot of issues which the book actually discusses, like colonialism and looting, etc. In the end, it’s a well-written and reasonably unsensational account of an admittedly fairly sensational discovery: a city in Mosquitia abandoned without visible signs of strife som

    Received to review via Netgalley

    The problem with books like this is that they can come across as way too sensational, and like they’re stirring up a story about a non-event. I was a little hesitant to read this because of that, plus a lot of issues which the book actually discusses, like colonialism and looting, etc. In the end, it’s a well-written and reasonably unsensational account of an admittedly fairly sensational discovery: a city in Mosquitia abandoned without visible signs of strife sometime after the Spanish invaded South America.

    It’s a city hidden in thick jungle, and the book highlights the methods used to find it. Lidar, and boots on the ground. Despite the precautions they’re told to take, the team still struggle with the unique dangers of the jungle: extremely venomous snakes, biting ants, parasites… and even, perhaps, a hunting jaguar. About half of the team come down with leishmaniasis, a parasitical disease which, in the worst cases, can eat away at skin and even bone — this months after they all leave the jungle and escape, as they think, scot free. They have to be treated with cures that are almost as bad as the disease, and some of them may never quite be the same again.

    But they find a city — two, in fact. They find a cache of buried objects which seem to be ritually destroyed, in a way seen in cultures across the world for items accompanying burials and rituals. And Preston suggests a theory for why the city was abandoned, which may someday find support from those very parasites half the team struggled with. He covers not just the archaeology, but also the skills the team utilise, the challenges of the site, and even a lot of detail on leishmaniasis. Warning: do not google pictures.

    It’s an interesting narrative, and from my limited knowledge of archaeology, Preston describes a rigorous and careful expedition. I’d love to see the actual scientists, archaeologists and locals commenting on this, though, rather than a writer. Or as well as a writer! The more the merrier.

  • Jaksen
    Feb 02, 2017

    (I won this book. I purchased an autographed copy.)

    If you think you're about to read an archaeological treatise on the discovery of a truly 'lost city' - a word

    archaeologists hate - then fuhgeddaboudit. (Did I spell that right, all you Soprano-lovers out there?) This is a story about a discovery by a writer who writes adventure-mystery-suspense novels, sometimes with a writing partner. His adventure-mystery-suspense books are great! Did I say great? They are among my most favorite books,

    (I won this book. I purchased an autographed copy.)

    If you think you're about to read an archaeological treatise on the discovery of a truly 'lost city' - a word

    archaeologists hate - then fuhgeddaboudit. (Did I spell that right, all you Soprano-lovers out there?) This is a story about a discovery by a writer who writes adventure-mystery-suspense novels, sometimes with a writing partner. His adventure-mystery-suspense books are great! Did I say great? They are among my most favorite books, and I don't give a hoot if anyone criticizes my grammar, spelling or syntax. :D

    So the book is written from a different sort of perspective than one might expect. This is NOT Erik Larson - whose books I also love - or a renowned, 60-ish historian/anthropologist/archaeologist. This book is written from the POV of a guy who knows words and knows suspense, but is actually just a regular guy so he writes about regular stuff. About how astounded he is to be on this project. About the people working around him. About the jungle, its animals - its SNAKES! - and how he spent most of his time in the Honduran jungle soaking wet, constantly being bitten by something.

    I loved this point of view. It's one I don't often see in books which are about something which really happened. Plus I have always loved 'lost cities' and as a child had a book with a green cover with that name on it exactly: LOST CITIES. I mean, political scientific correctness aside - and I've got a degree in Biology, btw - how many kids grew up and wanted to be archaeologists, historians or anthropologists just because of that book, or books like it?

    So what's it about? About the discovery of a city in the jungles of Honduras, an area where even the looters and local drug smugglers haven't gone. The city is HUGE, but hidden by centuries of forestation. There are pyramids and plazas, a court for playing handball. The city has some elements which are 'Maya-like,' but many which are not. It appears to have been deserted centuries ago for reasons unknown, though there are a lot of hypotheses about that. (Archaeologists love to speculate on all this stuff, and argue, both among themselves and with people like Preston and the others who made this find. The arguing can get rather petty at times, IMO.) One of the first finds uncovered is a cache of objects - beautifully carved jaguars, vultures and other animals.

    It's all of this which makes the book so fascinating. The jungle, the bugs, the people, the weather (mostly rainy), the animals, the nearly impassable terrain. It's also loaded with scientific details, including a fascinating explanation of 'lidar' which I followed completely, as well as information on the culture, environment, biology and history of the area in which the 'lost city' was found.

    This book was great and though it ended on a creepy note - a discussion of leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease which Preston and several of his co-explorers contracted, and which some of them are still struggling with years later - this book was the one I carried around the house with me. When I had two minutes here, ten there, half an hour or so, I read this book. I

    this book. One of my family members said, is that book attached to you, or what? :D

    Of course I'd read almost anything Mr. Preston writes, but that's not the point. It's simply a wonderful book.

    Five stars

  • Dana Stabenow
    Dec 18, 2016

    For centuries Hondurans have told their children the myth of the Lost City of the Monkey God, but myths are often rooted in fact, and in the early Oughts cinematographer and inveterate searcher for lost cities Steve Elkins starts looking for it. National Geographic/New Yorker writer and novelist Douglas Preston, in the way nosy journalists do, hears tell of this search and talks his way into the 2015 expedition. Preston begins his story with a briefing by an ex-soldier experienced in jungle trav

    For centuries Hondurans have told their children the myth of the Lost City of the Monkey God, but myths are often rooted in fact, and in the early Oughts cinematographer and inveterate searcher for lost cities Steve Elkins starts looking for it. National Geographic/New Yorker writer and novelist Douglas Preston, in the way nosy journalists do, hears tell of this search and talks his way into the 2015 expedition. Preston begins his story with a briefing by an ex-soldier experienced in jungle travel who passes around a photo of someone on a previous expedition bitten by a fer-de-lance. It isn't pretty. More cheery news of the local fauna follows in the way of mosquitoes and sand flies eager to pass on lovely diseases like malaria, dengue fever and the dread leishmaniasis. Never heard of it? Me, either, and Preston, either, but he'll hear a lot more about it shortly. At the end of that first chapter he writes "I paid attention. I really did." No, he didn't, or not enough, but it wouldn't have mattered even if he had.

    This book is simply packed with information on a dozen different topics, to begin with a history of archeology in Central and South America and worldwide, legal and not

    a history of Central American pre-Columbian civilizations--or at least the discovery of their existence--which were much more wide-spread than previously thought and why that is important to Hondurans

    a story about the politics between archeologists, which from an outside perspective looks a lot like jealousy on the part of the people who didn't discover the Lost City of the Monkey God directed at the people who did than it does legitimate differences between academics; a brief but uncomfortably vivid history of the US in Honduras which kind of makes you feel like it may be more than time for the American empire to just, you know, stop with that shit now; and new technology in the form of lidar stabilized by a kind of top secret electronic gyroscope that pings lasers at the spaces between leaves to reflect back the features of the ground beneath them. FYI? The rain forest has a lot of leaves, but the lidar confounds even that dense canopy and discovers the Lost City (and maybe two) just three days into the mapping process.

    If John McPhee writes the way Yo-Yo Ma plays the cello Preston is at least first chair. When I finished the book I immediately went on line to look at the expedition photos on National Geographic's website (

    ) and from his descriptions was easily able to recognize the people, the artifacts and especially the place, this stunningly, dangerously beautiful tropical wilderness untouched for five hundred years. Preston is clearly a man in love

    I'm glad he's that good a writer because the only way I want to experience this place is through his prose and the photos, thanks. I certainly would never even attempt to keep up with Chris Fisher or Dave Yoder in the jungle, that's for sure.

    And then there is leishmaniasis, a ghastly disease which infects Preston and half of the expedition. It's like cancer in that the cure is as bad as the disease and as of writing the book Preston's has recurred. In even cheerier news, due to the enabling offices of climate change leishmaniasis is steadily making its way north, occurring now in Texas and Oklahoma. Goody. Although Americans dying of it may be the only way to get the drug companies working on a cure, because why bother if it's only killing poor people in the Third World? I mean that's no way to make money.

    But the leishmaniusis gives him the final clue to perhaps solve the puzzle: Where did the people of the Lost City go? And why did they leave and, especially, when? Also known as: Disease as destiny.

    Impossible to recommend this book highly enough.

    ***

    Read an expanded version of this review on the Los Angeles Review of Books,

    .

  • The Pfaeffle Journal
    Jan 16, 2017

    Who knew that there were so many civilizations in the southern hemisphere,

    takes us deep into the Mosquitia region of the Gracias a Dios Department in eastern Honduras, where the legendary "White City" supposedly existed.

    The first third of the book tells how documentary filmmakers Steve Elkins and Bill Benenson have spent 20+ years searching for the "White City". using a million-dollar lidar scanner, they were able to fly over the valley, probing the jungle cano

    Who knew that there were so many civilizations in the southern hemisphere,

    takes us deep into the Mosquitia region of the Gracias a Dios Department in eastern Honduras, where the legendary "White City" supposedly existed.

    The first third of the book tells how documentary filmmakers Steve Elkins and Bill Benenson have spent 20+ years searching for the "White City". using a million-dollar lidar scanner, they were able to fly over the valley, probing the jungle canopy with laser light. Lidar is able to map the ground even through dense rain forest, delineating any archaeological features that might be present. What they found was a huge city. Was it the legendary "White City"? Who knows.

    What ensues is the physical search of the area. If you have read any books on entering tropical rain forests you know they are fraught with dangers, while I appreciate the amount of time, effort and money invested in this project I am not wholly convinced that it is the riveting tale we are lead to believe we are getting. It is more a long version of the National Geographic article. From here Preston, takes off on a tangent about how those in the archaeology of Central America community attacked their expedition because Elkins billed it as finding the LOST "White City" which they (archaeologist) believe is a myth.

    The last part of the book is about Leishmaniasis, the disease that Preston and many of his fellow crew members caught. It was interesting to learn what treatment they went through to contain the disease. Preston then goes on to speculate that the people of the city they found where wiped out by some disease that occurred during the contact period with explorers. There is nothing to back this up.

    I read this book because Dana Stabenow rated with 5 stars and provided a rave review. I was not so impressed.

  • Justin Tate
    Feb 10, 2017

    Wow, well this had a little bit of everything! Archeological adventure story, ancient culture history, Honduras politics, revelations about lesser-known diseases and more. Loved it from beginning to end.

  • Constance
    Jan 08, 2017

    Most of the events in this book happened relatively recently, and although it makes the book feel slightly more relevant, it also feels like the book was very hastily written - it's kind of a rambling mess.

    This book is not really actually about the "Lost City of the Monkey God." It's more a journal about the experience of being a part of the mostly old white male team that basically had so much money/power/free time that they were able to "discover" previously unexplored settlements of a previo

    Most of the events in this book happened relatively recently, and although it makes the book feel slightly more relevant, it also feels like the book was very hastily written - it's kind of a rambling mess.

    This book is not really actually about the "Lost City of the Monkey God." It's more a journal about the experience of being a part of the mostly old white male team that basically had so much money/power/free time that they were able to "discover" previously unexplored settlements of a previously under-studied culture (due to these settlements being located in dense rainforests in politically-unstable Honduras). Which still sounds like it might be interesting, but actually turns out to be like watching a slow survivalist show on TV, interspersed with periods of fumbling amateur descriptions of artifacts and academic theories.

    At points, the author also mentions people critical of the narrative of this team "discovering" the "Lost City of the Monkey God," e.g., people who want to talk about "issues such as those of colonialism, white supremacy, hypermasculinity, fantasy and imagination [and] indigenous rights," all things that are obviously present in the book. Instead of acknowledging these issues, the author is infuriatingly defensive and navel-gazing about it all.

    Really, I'm really not sure why this book is getting so much positive press. Are people actually reading it? I'd really love to read about the culture and the excavation of the site from an anthropologist's perspective, or really anyone who knows what they're talking about.

    I learned that people actually get hurt on survivalist shows like Bear Grylls's. It's not all fake!

  • Carrie
    Feb 12, 2017

    Interesting nonfiction read about the discovery of a lost city in Honduras and the perils that face the crew members who go out to explore it. There are not many archaeologists in the group--it's mostly filmmakers, photographers, local guides, and of course the author, who's a writer--so if you're looking for detailed information about archaeological digs, you might not find what you're looking for here. But I found the bits about deadly encounters with the elements--like poisonous snakes--fasci

    Interesting nonfiction read about the discovery of a lost city in Honduras and the perils that face the crew members who go out to explore it. There are not many archaeologists in the group--it's mostly filmmakers, photographers, local guides, and of course the author, who's a writer--so if you're looking for detailed information about archaeological digs, you might not find what you're looking for here. But I found the bits about deadly encounters with the elements--like poisonous snakes--fascinating, as well as the infectious disease chapters.