I’ve never read anything by Preston before; he made his name as a pulp thriller writer and this one came highly recommended. It’s the story of a mythical city deep in the jungles of Honduras and the various efforts over the years to prove that it actually existed at one time. Preston sketches a quick history of these efforts and then gets to the meat of the book, a new expedition that Preston himself joins as a journalist. The book has a lot of potential, but it’s unfortunately less an adventure and more a lot of people talking about having an adventure. Preston spends a lot of time enumerating the horrible dangers of the area, but none of it ever really comes to mean anything. It’s home to the deadliest snake in the world . . . and then they see a couple of them. There are drug cartels operating in the area . . . but they don’t run into any. There’s treacherous quicksand . . . and then a guy gets a foot stuck and they pull him out. It’s a book filled with potential menaces that never develop into anything. I found the book most compelling actually after the expedition returned home and then discovered that they had carried home a strange and deadly bacteria that began to ravage their bodies. There’s potential for a story here, even with the lack of real dangers, but it would require someone with more skill than Preston. His prose is workmanlike and his “insights” when he starts waxing philosophical about what it means for a civilization to just disappear are leaden. It’s readable enough, but nothing more. 2 stars.
tl;dr – jungle expedition promises thrills & adventure, but only delivers dull routine in workmanlike prose; never particularly terrible, but that’s about all you can say. 2 stars.