Customer Reviews for

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

15 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

TRUTH CAN BE STRANGER THAN FICTION

This book revives a once popular figure that time had reduced to obscurity - Percy Harrison Fawcett. It describes his early explorations in parts of Bolivia, Brazil and Peru - usually just referred to as "the Amazon". It describes what is known of Fawcett's last explo...
This book revives a once popular figure that time had reduced to obscurity - Percy Harrison Fawcett. It describes his early explorations in parts of Bolivia, Brazil and Peru - usually just referred to as "the Amazon". It describes what is known of Fawcett's last exploration to find El Dorado as well as expeditions by others to find El Dorado or to discover the fate of Fawcett, his son Jack, and his son's friend Raleigh.

Part of the attraction of the book is the presentation of the unique character of Fawcett. He proves that truth can be stranger than fiction. Fawcett was tougher than the fictitious Indiana Jones although Fawcett maintained the way to survive attacks by the most hostile natives was to refuse to fight them. He and his handful of companions in all but his final journey survived almost unbelievable odds and hardships through his mental and physical strength. It was obvious that Fawcett could be admired from a distance, but was probably justifiably seen as insensitive, obsessed and ruthless by his traveling companions. Part of the attraction of the book is the reconstruction of the era of the amateur, gentleman explorer, the public's fascination with them, and the Royal Geographical Society and similar organizations that funded them.

The book also dispelled some of the romantic notions about expeditions to the Amazon. I might be willing to subject myself to the stereotyped hardships - heat, thirst, hunger, snakes, crocodiles, violent natives and even piranhas. However, after reading about the hordes of bloodthirsty mosquitoes, gnats, bees, ants and termites intent on leaving victims gory and blind, gruesome flies that plant maggots beneath the skin, and horrific vampire bats that swoop down in packs to rip flesh open, I was left amazed that anyone that had somehow survived such horror once would be willing to face it again.

The reader is somewhat discouraged throughout the book as the ending appears to be apparent. The obvious assumption is that Fawcett's luck finally ran out and he and his party were violently killed by hostile natives. Also El Dorado obviously was never found or the discovery would have been heralded. The author's determination to discover the actual route of the Fawcett party leads to a surprise ending that justifies Fawcett's obsession and his revival from obscurity.

posted by LN_Adcox on March 21, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

Meh

I love treasure hunts and exploring. But i also have a weakness for animals. I understand the need to learn about new species but i couldnt handle reading about horses being forced to stay in the river with swords so the men could see how long theyd survive with electri...
I love treasure hunts and exploring. But i also have a weakness for animals. I understand the need to learn about new species but i couldnt handle reading about horses being forced to stay in the river with swords so the men could see how long theyd survive with electric eels. I got a little under half way through before quitting. It bothers me to leave a book unfinished but i cant read about the experiments.

posted by Anonymous on December 29, 2011

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  • Posted October 27, 2009

    Fascinating Story, Excellent Read

    Through diaries, research, and exploration, Grann sets out to solve "the greatest exploration mystery of the 20th century." Seeking what happened to British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest to find the Lost City of Z in the Amazon, aka El Dorado. Fawcett inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and other writers with his adventures. He proved truth is more fascinating and stranger than fiction.

    From Fawcett's travels to the author's own research, Grann proves highly developed civilizations did exist in the Amazon.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 15, 2009

    Where in the World is Percy Fawcett?

    The real star of 'Lost City of Z' is the 'counterfeit paradise' of the Amazon. This vast region, almost as large as the continental U.S., is a mysterious and extensive repository of all kinds of flora and fauna--much hostile to humans. There are anacondas which could eat a small cow, poisonous snakes and plants for which there are no remedies, weird insects of all sorts like tiny bees that try to get into your eyeballs. The canopy of the jungle has all kinds of plants riotously struggling for the 'fight for light', leaving dark, thick, almost impassable underbrush below. It was in this environment that Percy Fawcett--one of the last great individualistic explorers (before exploration became expensive, institutionalized, and specialized)--disappeared in 1925 with his son and his son's friend, while searching for a civilization he called 'Z', and the first conquistadores in the area called 'El Dorado'. It was a sensational story at the time, and hundreds more perished, or were lost in subsequent decades, in efforts to find him.

    I found the author's device of shifting from the past to the present, where he mounts his own little 'expedition', to be jarring. I could imagine some old explorer curmudgeon intoning 'I knew Percy Fawcett. I explored with Percy Fawcett. Sir, you are no Percy Fawcett!' On the other hand, this technique does highlight the vast differences in 'exploring' the Amazon versus almost a hundred years ago. For example, the huge amount of clear-cutting for grazing land (difference), and the continued devastation of indigenous civilization which began with the initial contact of European conquerors.

    The general gist of scholarship is that a civilization of any magnitude would be impossible in the Amazon because it is so hostile a place for humans, and the difficulty of cultivation would consign it to limited inhabitation, much like the Arctic 'wastes'. Apparently, this was false, as 'Z' does exist--after a fashion. The most cutting edge anthropological research has found cities in the middle of the Amazon, and roads, which supported a large population. Percy Fawcett, who tried to locate Z based on legends and historical chronicles, was probably walking right through it but didn't recognize it as such in 1925.

    The cities, such as those of 'El Dorado', existed when the first chroniclers recorded them hundreds of years ago. What probably happened was that European diseases wiped out the population, much as it did further north. The much smaller population could not help the jungle 'repossessing' the land very quickly, and much of the well-developed culture was lost. Unlike the groups farther north, the Amazonians did not build in stone, so no permanent structures persisted.

    In a way, this reminds me of 'One Second After', another book I recently reviewed--we can only imagine the skills, experience, and expertise, that would be lost as the American population is reduced to 30 million from a former population of 300 million. After a few hundred years, anthropologists might likewise say 'I can't believe these fractious little tribes living their substinence lifestyle built these skyscrapers!'

    As for what happened to Fawcett...well, I don't want to spoil everything for you!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Learn something new every day

    I never heard of the British explorer Percy Fawcett before picking up this book. But I learned so much about him and the obsession as the many followers who either tried to locate the missing explorer in the Amazon jungle or theorize what had become of him. David Grann did a wonderful job of researching this individual and has written a straight forward history of the man and his mission. He has also made it exciting as he tries to make the same journey into the Amazon and records his own tales and findings. This is a very interesting book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2014

    a fast read about the early explorers of south america.

    A gripping tale of adventure with lots of history about the early english explorers of the geographical society.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2013

    Great armchair adventure read

    Fascinating story of searching for trace of long lost jungle explorer riviting well written story a keeper

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2013

    Excellent compelling story

    More than you knew you wanted to know abiut the amazon...but totally gripping and seducyive

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2013

    Riviting!

    Loved this book. Could not stop reading it. Highly recommend it. TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION! Great writing!
    PRUDENCE Tedder

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  • Posted February 25, 2013

    good true story

    excellent historical account.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2013

    Recommended for explorers of the unknown

    I had seen a TV program on the search for what happeded to Col Percy Fawcett's last expedition searching for the City of Z. This is provides much more background information and maybe answers where he dissapeared. Very interesting if you are interested in lost civilizations and ancient history.

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  • Posted January 29, 2013

    Great book. Happy I picked it up.

    Great book. Happy I picked it up.

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  • Posted May 28, 2012

    boring

    It was boring. It went on & on about explorers from before & I really didn't care about them. they had nothing to dowith the story that mattered. It put me to sleep. dissappointed.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A wonderful and compelling story. I've been interested in anthro

    A wonderful and compelling story. I've been interested in anthropology and archaeology since I was a kid, and this is one of the big questions about the history of the early america's. Were there any large settlements in the Amazon or was Carvajal's description of Orellana's trip down the Amazon a tall tale or a true accounting? Ancient civilizations fascinate me. The dual narrative of the life of Fawcett and the search for Fawcett was well told and well paced.

    The eBook was formatted well, with a few punctuation errors (mostly hyphenated words that didn't need to be).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2012

    Interesting

    Very interesting book to read. A little boring at times but it does leave you wondering.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2012

    Pulled into adventure

    Loved the book! I love reading stories I had no idea really existed and learn about fascinating people of history. The Lost City of Z is an excellent read and makes you think for weeks after about what really happened at the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2011

    Recommend if you like adventure

    Good for historical adventure, however, tedious research at times. Couldn't put it down toward the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2011

    Starts well; drags out

    I think this could have been a much better read if it was 75 pages shorter.

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  • Posted October 20, 2011

    Excellent!!!

    Read this as a new hard copy before I had my nook. I have since passed it around to my daughter and all my friends that read. All are unaminous in saying this book is fantastic and was hard to put down once started. I loved it...

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  • Posted October 2, 2011

    Good

    Good book

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  • Posted September 17, 2011

    !

    !

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  • Posted August 18, 2011

    Good Book

    Great detail, well written... weak ending.

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