The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston has all the ingredients of a great adventure story. A dense jungle far from human habitation, where one could easily get lost by just wandering a few meters away from the camp, disease-bearing insects, close encounters with fer-de-lances, (large, aggressive, venomous snakes), in short a place where the team was equipped with two former SAS soldiers whose job was to ensure their survival. A lost city somewhere in the jungles of Honduras, known as the Lost City of the Monkey God or Ciudad Blanca (White City) which until then had been nothing more than a myth, a story passed down through generations. Oh, and to top it all off, the city was said to be cursed. Sounds like I’m describing a Hollywood film, doesn’t it? But this is the true story of an expedition that took place in 2012.
As fascinating as the depictions of the jungle expedition is, it isn’t until near the end of the book that one realizes what the most dangerous part of the expedition had actually been. It hadn’t been the snakes or the danger of getting lost if one wandered more than a few meters away from the group after all. It was something entirely different and unexpected, something which I had never even heard about before. A curse of sorts, if you will. The thought of it now makes me shiver because it’s real and apparently not even that uncommon in some places. No spoilers here of course, but hypochondriacs with sores on their bodies should probably steer clear of this book.
The only other Douglas Preston book I own is The Codex which I read so long ago that I remember virtually nothing about it, only vaguely that it was an adventure story set somewhere in Central America and that I had liked it. So I just pulled it from the shelf and was surprised to see, in the acknowledgements, a thank-you to “Steve Elkins, who is searching for the real White City in Honduras.” (Steve Elkins was the driving force behind the expedition above.) The Codex was published in 2004, so it seems that I’m drawn to the same themes over and over again.