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Until 1993, when a young tribesman emerged from the jungle seeking medical help, the Liawep were virtually unknown to any but unfortunate neighboring tribes who felt the brunt of their savagery. A year later, the author, circumventing official restrictions, slithers through remote rainforests, traversing swollen rivers over rickety bridges built of vines and logs. It's an arduous trek for which he finds himself physically unprepared but which he undertakes in order to be among the first to encounter this "lost tribe." Accompanied by native guides, Marriott eventually reaches the Liawep's village. At first, he receives a chilly reception from the only other outsider, a raging Christian missionary named Herod, and is generally avoided by the suspicious Liawep. But over a period of weeks, he penetrates this society to a minimal extent, and what he finds is atavistically scary. He meets an older warrior who admits to cannibalism, and the tribesmen affirm that their fearful reputation is well-earned: Prior to contact with the outside, they killed off the surrounding peoples, and they are often overtly threatening to Marriott. Even the butchering of pigs is performed with gruesome savagery, a process described in chilling, graphic detail. With the advent of the rainy season, Marriott and his companions worry about crossing the rivers on their return journey. Before they can start out, a fearsome lightning storm inundates the village, bringing death to five of the Liawep. Fearing that they will be blamed for the tragedy by the superstitious warriors—a fear soon borne out—Marriott and his guides barely escape with their lives after a forced jungle march.
Honest and without self-aggrandizement, and even witty in the early going, Marriott's debut is one of the best books of its kind in recent memory.