Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: September 5th, 2017
What I liked: First of all, I loved Preston's respect for Honduras, its people, culture, history, and archaeology and artifacts. It means a lot to me that he was careful to include the many multi-faceted components that surround an exploration of an ancient civilization in a region often neglected by the rest of the world. Preston also has a lot of great, vivid descriptions of the land and forest that brought everything to life and encouraged me to get online and look up more images of this region. He went into a lot of detail about the dangers of the area, from snakes, bugs, etc., and I think it’s safe to say that I should probably not plan a visit. There was also a bit of a medical issue regarding a parasite, leishmaniasis, that all of the explorers dealt with after the exploration that he went into a lot of depth about near the latter portion of the book. I found this section equally fascinating and horrifying. I appreciated his discussion about negative associations with the terms ”lost city," "discovery," etc. and how these are misleading and sometimes offensive topics to talk about when these cities have such long histories. Lastly, I really appreciated Preston's ‘can-do’ attitude and willingness to get out of his comfort zone and explore, as it really added some adventure and allowed him to get a closer look to better share with readers.
What I didn't like: I would’ve loved to explore the uncovered city site and discoveries more, as I felt the ratio of history/exploration/etc. was not equal to the amount of discussion on what was actually found. That being said, I also understand the limitations in writing about what’s there when research was still ongoing, and I wouldn’t say what was there was “lacking.” The formatting could also have been tightened up a bit and had less jumping around. I would also say that the “history” portion of the White City and previous attempts to “discover” it in the beginning half of the book leading up to Preston’s journey was rather long and, and interesting as some of this section was, could have been edited down a bit to keep the narrative flowing.
What I liked: First and foremost, I have to say how much I appreciated reading a book that covered this period of history in such detail and with such care, because the author is right in that most more readily available resources do not spend much time in this period. I’ve studied quite a bit over my years studying Classics, as he was one of those figures that particularly intrigued me, and I appreciated seeing this post-death situation in depth, including how his relationships with people impacted the conflict and how much his rule and influence had spread. I really liked how Romm formatted this book, focusing on key players as they fit into the narrative and influenced events after Alexander’s death. There was plenty of nuance available in analyzing these figures and the potential motivations or relationships at play that would impact actions. This was a particularly dramatic period of time–I mean, Ptolemy I literally stole Alexander’s funerary cart (with his body) on its way back to Macedonia and rerouted it to Egypt where Ptolemy decided to have him buried in Memphis for his own benefit–and it only gets crazier. This is a great book for concrete source material for research or educational purpose, but it also reads really easily and I think would be a very accessible read for anyone not in the Classics field.
What I didn't like: I don’t have too many complaints about this book, but I do think it was slightly repetitious at times. I’ve found it’s fairly common for historical nonfiction books to really hammer home certain points, but I still found it a bit repetitive to hear repeated comments about certain historical figures. There was also a lot of information given constantly, and I could see it being a little overmuch at times. There are a lot of moving parts at play to keep track of, so it was sometimes a little difficult to follow and keep track of things, but I have to give Romm credit for attempting to organize it as best as possible. Despite this being in the “didn’t like” section of this review, I still think it’s very accessible for everything that has to be covered!