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The Lost City of the Monkey God

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The Lost City of the Monkey God revolves around the true discovery of a formerly lost city, one previously believed to be little more than myth, deep in the rainforests of Honduras. Douglas Preston, a freelance writer for publications like National Geographic and The New Yorker who is likely best known for being the co-author, alongside Lincoln Child, of the long-running Agent Pendergast series, joined the expedition and relays here a factual account of archeological discovery.

The narrative offers plenty of historical background and has a lot of really interesting nooks and crannies to it. Preston does a fantastic job of countering the ethnocentric belief that the indigenous tribes that called this Lost City home were any sort of primitive. Although they certainly had customs, practices, and beliefs that were foreign to the Spanish conquistadors that would eventually perpetuate genocide upon rank barbarity among the South American continent, this notion that the native populations were somehow inferior or savage is little more than racism and I appreciated that Preston combatted such assumptions along the way, taking the time to remind readers about the importance of avoiding ethnocentric assumption, particularly in fields of science and history. He also does a fantastic job relaying the harsh realities of life in the jungle, and the sort of diseases prevalent in these regions and how climate change may lend to more widespread infections as previously inhospitable areas become warmer and more able to provide habitable spaces for diseases and parasites.

While The Lost City of the Monkey God is an interesting exploration into the Honduran jungle, the audio narration is also pretty damn dry, unfortunately. Narrator Bill Mumy doesn't bring a lot of excitement or range to reading Preston's workmanlike rose, sticking to a matter of fact delivery. I wouldn't recommend listening to this book if you're tired or easily distracted. That said, it is a worthwhile exploration of a fascinating topic.
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This book is about the search for the legendary White City also known as the Lost City of the Monkey God. The author takes the reader through the lengthy process of eventually finding it in the unexplored jungles of Honduras from a first hand participant viewpoint. I found the story of interest, but the book was inconsistent (hard to put down at times and easy to walk away from at others) and read like it was being written for a potential movie plot. 

I recomend this book for those looking for those looking for a story about the discovery of an unknown civilization.

I received a free Kindle copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook and Twitter pages.
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This is a very well researched and interesting book about a not very well known area in Central America.
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I'm usually not a non-fiction reader, but I love archeology and I've read almost all of Mr. Preston's fiction, so I knew his writing would be pretty engaging. He gives a good background history of the legend and expeditions searching for the White City in Mosquitia in Honduras, and then documents his own participation in a successful expedition looking for the Lost City of the Monkey God. The last bit of the book documents a specific jungle disease, what it might have had to do with the sudden exodus of the inhabitants of the City, and the frightening prospect of it moving north as America gets warmer.  Not as suspenseful as The Lost City of Z, but still a well written jungle-adventure-without-the-bugs for us armchair would-be archeologists.
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Fantastic modern day adventure book.  For young adults looking to be inspired by the idea that there are still mysteries in the world, this is the perfect tale.
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4 Stars!

I have been a fan of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child for a long time.  Whether they are writing together or individually, I always look forward to their books.  I was happy to get a review copy of The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston and eagerly dove into the nonfiction book looking for the thrills and entertainment that I have come to expect from the author.
The world had long known about the ancient civilizations that had once ruled over Central and South America.  The ruins of these ancient empires had been unearthed and explored as civilization tried to understand the past as it marched into the future.  Each new discovery felt incomplete, however, as there loomed over it all a legend of an ancient empire that had yet to be unearthed.  Rumors of a city of vast wealth deep in the jungles of Honduras have persisted since Hernan Cortes first came to the new world.  The White City, or the City of the Lost Monkey God, had forever remained a mystery shrouded in a legend that foretold death for anyone who found its ruins.  It was the holy grail of archaeology in the Americas and its secrets were to be unveiled at last.
In 2012, Douglas Preston joined a group of archaeologists on a mission to discover the lost city and uncover its secrets.  The team was optimistic about its chances for success due to a new technology that would allow them to map the terrain that lay underneath the dense foliage of the rain forest.  Preston was on the flight in a plane that seemed held together by little more than tape and well wishes when the technology, called lidar, found evidence of an ancient metropolis tucked inside a secluded canyon.  Even the amazing technology, however, could not overcome the dangers of the jungle the guarded the ruins.  When the party was not threatened by deadly snakes or carnivorous animals, the torrential rains and ensuing mudslides seemed determined to stop its progress.  The curse of the lost city seemed to come to life when the members of the expedition found themselves beset by a deadly disease that could have been the very thing that caused the legend of the city to first be born.
Preston has always had a fascination for ancient civilizations an often uses them in his novels.  Preston brings that passion to this book and drags the reader into a world of intrigue in the dense rain forest.  This passion is what keeps the book from becoming a dull nonfiction chronicle of the expedition and makes it read almost like a work of fiction full of intrigue and excitement.  It is almost possible to feel the fear and excitement of the expedition as it enters into the jungle and begins to unravel the mystery of the lost city.  Preston is able to present the hard facts from the reality into the story in a way that does not bog down the narrative yet allows it to flow smoothly so that it educates and informs even while it thrills.  Even though the story is true and the facts are laid out clearly, the reader still feels as if the story is unfolding around him as he is transported into the world of the book.  The first half of the book reads as a high adventure interspersed with fact and science that Preston presents as a wonder of the modern world meeting the ancient secrets of the forest.
The second half of the book transitions to the disease that follows the members of the expedition out of the jungle and the book slows some as Preston dwells upon its effects on the explorers.  This makes the second part of the book slower than the first but no less interesting.  Preston presents the details of the disease in an immediate fashion and then goes into details about the trials and tribulations needed to overcome the illness.  It is easy to see how the city was believed to be cursed when such a rare and exotic disease made its nest there.  It is Preston’s ability to mix fact with storytelling and his fascination with science that raises it to the level of seeming almost supernatural that makes this book so much fun to read.  The Lost City of the Monkey God is both entertaining and educational as Preston weaves a true story in the fashion of a true storyteller.  This book is highly recommended for Preston’s fans as well as for those who have an interest in ancient civilizations and the struggles of modern man to understand the past.

I would like to thank Grand Central and NetGalley for this review copy.  The Lost City of the Monkey God is available now.
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The Lost City of the Monkey Gods by Douglas Preston

I went into this book expecting the slightly over the edge of reality that seems to characterize some of Preston’s books.  That is not a criticism, I liked Impact  and The Codex.   I expected more of the same. This book is not a fantasy, this is an journey of discovery of a city that truly was lost in time. 

Honduras was the home of a legend of a White City lost somewhere in the interior jungle.   Many explorers searched for the lost city and it’s treasures.  Some even claimed to have found it but were later exposed as frauds.   A film maker was bitten by the exotic bug of a lost city and organized several expeditions to find it.  Modern technology enabled a more accurate and thorough search.   Two cities were found and the author was covering the story for the National Geographic Society. 

Most impressive aspects were the isolated nature of the terrain with the excitement of a monumental archeological discovery.   The exotic bug was not just an expression but a sad factor of jungle exploration.  Many members of the team were bitten by sand flies that carried the parasite that causes leishmaniasis, a disease I had never heard of.   A good portion of the book was the description of that particular disease and the impact of disease on the indigenous population of the Caribbean and the Americas.  

The author spends some time talking about the invasion of diseases formerly restricted to certain areas of the world and how air travel and global warming are impacting the spread of heretofore obscure diseases around the world.  Preston points out that while these diseases were historically confined to the impoverished that today may be spread far beyond that population. 

This was an interesting book with some sobering insights. 

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Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was really interesting to follow the story of how Preston and an archaeology trekked into the Honduras to find ruins from an ancient civilization. However, I felt this book had some problems. I don't feel Preston properly acknowledged the political climate and implications of looking for ruins on Honduras's local indigenous peoples. It felt like he was dismissive of their concerns, and this is a concept he could have visited with more depth. Preston also used a lot of imperialist and colonialist language throughout that felt very out of place for a modern day book on researching ancient civilizations. It left me feeling very unsettled about many facets of their research operation, but I also find it important to learn about this. For this reason I wish Preston had focused more on the history of the area and its political implications rather than the adventure aspect. It risks perpetuating a lot of imperialism and stereotypes otherwise.
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As an armchair adventurer, I found this narrative to be a compelling addictive read.
Before reading this book, I was unaware of the lost Ciudad Blanca (White City) located in the in the formidable rainforests deep in Honduras’ interior and the associated legends, myths and superstitions.
I so enjoyed how the storyline unfolded the history of the region, the past expeditions, the rumors regarding those who did venture into the sacred city, and the politics and securing of funds and personnel for this last expedition.
There is no doubt that the scenery and landscape is breathtaking as mother nature’s ability to survive in a world where too often her treasures are carelessly destroyed but is the harrowing details of the exploration regarding the environmental challenges, where the expected becomes the unexpected, makes this a tantalizing read. 
I was kept in a constant state of intrigue, as expected by from a best-seller thriller author, and was excited when their perseverance paid off. But was thrown off-guard when the Ciudad Blanca had one last challenge to impart to the expedition team. 
Overall, this was a fascinating and provocative read for me.
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*New York Times Best Selling author Douglas Preston may be known more for his thrillers (especially those written with partner Lincoln Child). But his true-life adventure – “Lost City of the Monkey God” (Grand Central Publishing/Hatchette Book Group) - is more thrilling than any work of fiction could ever hope to be. 

The official synopsis is: “The #1 New York Times and #1 Wall Street Journal bestseller! 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 tribes speak of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish invaders, and they warn that anyone who enters this sacred city will fall ill and die. In 1940, swashbuckling journalist Theodore Morde returned from the rainforest with hundreds of artifacts and an electrifying story of having found the Lost City of the Monkey God-but then committed suicide without revealing its location.

“Three quarters of a century later, bestselling author Doug Preston joined a team of scientists on a groundbreaking new quest. In 2012 he climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: lidar, a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization.

“Venturing into this raw, treacherous, but breathtakingly beautiful wilderness to confirm the discovery, Preston and the team battled torrential rains, quickmud, disease-carrying insects, jaguars, and deadly snakes. But it wasn't until they returned that tragedy struck: Preston and others found they had contracted in the ruins a horrifying, sometimes lethal-and incurable-disease.

“Suspenseful and shocking, filled with colorful history, hair-raising adventure, and dramatic twists of fortune, THE LOST CITY OF THE MONKEY GOD is the absolutely true, eyewitness account of one of the great discoveries of the twenty-first century.”

Very well put. This experience must have been the adventure of a lifetime for the author! It takes him to the La Mosquitia region of Honduras called “Portal del Infierno” or Gates of Hell. This is a region that boasts one of the thickest jungles in the world, full of jaguars, deadly snakes, and quickmud. It also is infamous for having the highest murder rate in the world, and is mainly run by drug cartels.  But this is where the legendary White City or City of the Monkey God is rumored to exist. 

Preston was part of an elite group of researchers that included scientists, photographers, film producers, and archaeologists. Ex-soldier Andrew “Woody” Wood – an expert in jungle warfare and survival – was in charge of safety for the expedition. The city of Catacamos, which served as “base” for the explorers, was controlled by a violent drug cartel…except for the expedition into the jungle itself, the team was confined to their hotel. The actual jungle was home to an extremely dangerous pit viper – the fer-de-lance – which has killed more people in the New World than any other type of snake. Even harder to combat were disease-bearing insects. For instance, the bite of an infected sand fly can cause “mucocutaneous leishmaniasis”, more commonly known as “white leprosy”. 

The team indeed hit paydirt – uncovering actual lost cities. The main sites of their excavations were known as T1 and T2. We can actually feel the excitement the explorers experienced, especially the uncovering of an artifact that had a beautifully-carved were-jaguar on it. They were reluctant to leave the sites, and were worried for the protection and preservation of T1 and T2, since the region is rife with danger not only from the drug smugglers, but also deforestation and looting.

This detailed memoir gives us a glimpse of the challenges of camping on the site of their discovery, including encounters with the aforementioned fer-de-lance, angry monkeys, and relentless rain. We also learn a great deal about Honduran history, politics, and national identity & pride; as well as accounts of another fascinating discovery in the area: the Cave of the Glowing Skulls. 

Some team members – including the author – also fell victim to mucocutaneous leishmaniasis. We learn a great deal about this disease, as well as the fact that treatments are few and far between since it mainly hits third world countries and not financially viable for pharmaceutical companies to invest needed research into developing a cure.
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To put it simply, "The Lost City of the Monkey God" is more than a fascinating documentation about tracking down and rediscovering a unique American civilization that once thrived in the rainforest of what is now Honduras. Preston's book joins Charles Mann's monumental work "1491" as an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to better understand the complexities of the pre-Colombus Americas and the wealth of critical lessons that they have to teach us here in the present-day.
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Drew me in from pagd one
Highly recommend
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Really fun and informative read.  While I enjoyed the description of the discovery the last few chapters really lagged behind the rest of the book.
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A promising beginning just sort of peters out - I lost interest HARD and had to drag myself through the final third.  Perhaps if it focused on just one of the many threads here - the archaeology, the mercenaries, the culture, ANYTHING - I would have enjoyed it more.  After the umpteenth close call with a snake, however, I gave this one up as a lost cause.
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I enjoy most of this author's books, although he can get a bit wordy at times.  In the Lost City he refrains from that and the snakes, spiders and angry spirits keep the story in cliff hanger mode.  An added bonus is the chance of an  incurable disease called leishmaniasis. By the book, enjoy the story and look before you step
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Anything written by Douglas Preston is a fun time.  Really enjoyed this non-fiction book.
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I enjoyed many parts of this book, others not as much.
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Title: The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story 
Author: Douglas Preston
Source: from publisher for review 
Links: Amazon|Indiebound |Goodreads 
Rating:  four-stars 
Summary: This was a fun adventure story, but a little light on the science and archeology.

A mysterious civilization as wealthy as the Maya has long been rumored to be hidden in the mountainous Mosquitia region of Honduras.  However, it was only with the advent of LIDAR, a sonar-like technology for mapping the jungle floor, that any progress was made in the search. The two sprawling cities revealed by this mapping were incredible discoveries that the author was able to explore on foot, enduring encounters with “torrential rains, quickmud, disease-carrying insects, jaguars, and deadly snakes” (source). This is the story of that expedition.

The author of this book, Douglas Preston, is also the author of a best-selling series of thrillers and it shows! This was a fast-paced, engaging read. Preston did a masterful job foreshadowing dangers to come and leaving the reader at cliffhanger pauses. He also keep me reading quickly with short chapters and snappy writing. I enjoyed the arc of the story as well. The context provided by previous searches for the city made the modern expedition even more fascinating. The interpretation of the finding afterwards was equally enjoyable to read.

My one complaint about this book is that the science and archeology that were included were not explained in any depth. The author did share the interpretation of the artifacts that were found and I think he did so in an impressively nuanced way. Unfortunately, he never explained how the archeologists reached any of their conclusion or gave any of the evidence on either side when different researchers disagreed. Likewise, the biology presented was dumbed down to the point where it drove me a little crazy as someone who works in biology. I think how much you’re likely to enjoy this book largely depends on what you’re expecting. If you just want an awesome, real-life adventure, I think this would be the perfect read. If you’re looking to learn about archeology, I’d probably look elsewhere.
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Set in a jungle teeming with deadly snakes, dengue fever, and drug traffickers, this is the story of an expedition to find a mythological and cursed “lost” city known as Ciudad Blanca (White City) or City of the Monkey God. Jungles, legends, snakes and curses – it’s exactly up Preston’s alley! In his always readable and riveting writing style, Preston describes the history of the legend and how it caught the attention of an American filmmaker, despite many failed efforts to find the fabled city. This time, technology boosts the odds. Using “lidar” (light detection and ranging), a team of scientists, with Preston aboard the rickety plane, conducts a series of flyovers of a portion of the Mosquitia region of Honduras, generating lidar images of the landscape hidden below the thick jungle canopy. The images reveal two areas of significant interest, suggesting extensive ruins may lie beneath the green. It takes nearly three years to get the funding and permits for a follow-up expedition. In February 2015 a small group of archaeologists, botanists and filmmakers, again including Preston on assignment for National Geographic, assembles to conduct “ground-truthing” – essentially, to explore the area on foot and determine if there really are hidden ruins. Their 10-day stay will be supported by helicopter supply runs, and a Honduran military team is following on foot to provide protection from potential looters or traffickers. In addition, the jungle itself provides real threats, from the lethal fer de lance snake Preston nearly trods on the first night to colourful coral snakes and the myriad of insects carrying tropical diseases. Preston’s description of a nighttime forest floor teeming with cockroaches still makes me shudder. The team does uncover spectacular evidence of human habitation, abandoned centuries before, as described in Preston’s October 2015 National Geographic article on the February expedition, which you can find here: The story includes some fascinating images by Dave Yoder, who accompanied Preston for the magazine, that bring the story to life. My advance reading copy did not include any images, which I longed for, but I understand the importance of protecting the discovery from potential looting. The book continues after the expedition is completed, as the story doesn’t end there. In addition to facing considerable criticism from the academic community, illness strikes several members of the team. Is the curse real? Preston offers a fascinating first-person perspective of the threat of tropical diseases, made even more relevant after the Zika crisis. He doesn’t shy from discussing the academic criticism, though it’s clear he sides with the scientists who want this discovery protected. An enjoyable read that will attract armchair explorers and has crossover appeal for teen readers as well. My thanks to Grand Central Publishing for the advance reading copy provided through NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
More discussion and reviews of this book at And I highly recommend taking five minutes to enjoy a hilarious biography of Douglas Preston posted on Goodreads at
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This book was so interesting.  If I was doing a course on the rain forest or precolumbian civilizations I would use excerpts from this book.  I am a Spanish teacher and I enjoy reading about this subject.
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