Book Review: The Lost City of Z by David Grann

Hi all…

Though I had heard through the grapevine that The Lost City of Z was a great book, I find myself reading much more fiction than non-fiction and never managed to pick up a copy. When I finally had an opportunity to read it, I was drawn into the story from the opening pages and held until the very end. And when I put it down, I told my wife that I had read novels with less compelling plots than this true story about obsession and the lure of the unknown…

Percy Harrison Fawcett disappeared in 1925 into the dense, unforgiving jungles of the Amazon and never returned. At age 57, he had more experience exploring the then unmapped parts of the world than nearly anyone else alive. What was to stop David Grann, a writer for The New Yorker, from disappearing on the same quest a mere 81 years later?

Grann’s seamless prose manages to weave past and present in a coherent tapestry, intertwining Fawcett’s story with his own as he develops his own fascination with the legendary City of Z Fawcett and so many others lost their lives pursuing. Would I want to accompany either of these men through the jungles of South America in search of rumors, hearsay, and legend? Probably not. They each risked their lives and the lives of others in a part of the world where the flora and fauna make the lasting works of society such as roads, buildings, and monuments disappear seemingly overnight. Thankfully, Grann is able to share his experiences and his research with his readers.

On Fawcett’s last expedition, the fateful trip from which he never returned, he took his son Jack and his son’s best friend Raleigh along as young, strong, fearless adventurers dedicated to the quest. They sought traces of what may have been El Dorado, the City of Gold, when Europeans first entered the jungles. The stories of such riches and the knowledge that the Amazon hid such a wealth archaeological and anthropological knowledge from the world was enough to drive Fawcett to research all he could.

After a long series of successful quests to map the jungles, his last expedition had been a failure and he’d been forced to retreat. But he vowed to go back and he did. Unfortunately he and his young companions were never seen again.

Grann spoke to Fawcett’s remaining family, spoke with experts far and wide, and eventually kissed his wife and baby son goodbye to travel to South America himself. He was hot on Fawcett’s trail. And he eventually found the truth he sought…

For me, reading about these harrowing tales was enough to make me appreciate their heroism and steadfastness from afar. As a bestseller on the lists of the New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Denver Post, and others, obviously I wasn’t the only one who found the story irresistable. This book is not for the squeamish in a few spots, where Grann goes into great detail about some of the diseases and critters who see see the human body as a host or a meal. However, I found it fascinating to learn about some of the more horrific things the Amazon has in store for visitors.

If you have not yet been bitten by the bug, be sure to check out The Lost City of Z by David Grann, which is now out in paperback. It’s part Indiana Jones, part Sherlock Holmes, and fascinating from cover to cover.

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up this amazing book at Amazon below!

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Mid-week Links

Hey there…

Ok… I’ve seen enough weird news this week to warrant a few comments about some of the things going on in the movie business…

First, La Femme Nikita is back? Again? Let’s hope it’s more like Luc Besson‘s original starring Anne Parillaud or the series on USA starring Peta Wilson. Evidently McG’s involved and in this version (reportedly to air on The CW), Nikita will go rogue and a new assassin will be trained to replace her. Isn’t it odd that they’d call the series La Femme Nikita if she’s not the lead character? Read more at ComingSoon.net.

Next, it’s good to know that Guy Ritchie isn’t afraid to continue the good thing he started with Sherlock Holmes and Robert Downey, Jr. According to multiple sources (ComingSoon.net, FirstShowing.net and The Examiner) his Lobo (DC Comics) movie has been shelved for now and they’re ramping up to work on a script and pre-production for the Holmes sequel. Brad Pitt is rumored to be Moriarty, which should be quite interesting. Pitt as an evil, brilliant villain? Hmmm… (Update: Evidently this rumor has been squashed about Brad as Moriarty, so we’ll see who actually gets to play that role…)

And Michael Bay, king of explosions, is apparently scouting for locations for Transformers 3. The last one wasn’t bad enough? I’m hoping they return to the simpler plot of the first movie, which had me cheering by the end as a popcorn movie. Guess we’ll find out in July 2011. A bit more at ComingSoon.net

Lastly, in the “Please no, say it ain’t so” category, we have rumors of Sam Worthington (Avatar, Terminator: Salvation) going for the role of Dracula in a new movie about the first vampire. (At least he’s not a teenager…) For me, the last good Dracula was Gary Oldman… and before that Bela Lugosi. Worthington would need to age about 30 years before I’d even consider him for a role like that… Latino Review, MTV, ScreenRant… Everyone’s talking about it and saying the same thing – say it ain’t so!!

That’s it for now… More the next time I have a chance to pull my head out of the sand…

–Fitz

p.s. Pick up a few of these great DVDs!

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DVD Review: Sanctuary: The Complete First Season

Hey all…

Back in 2007, Sanctuary began life as a series of eight webisodes released one at a time over the Internet. I was among those who purchased the hi-def versions of these 15-20 minute shows and was drawn into the world of Dr. Helen Magnus (Amanda Tapping of Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis), a seemingly ageless scientist and researcher investigating the monsters or “Abnormals” in the real world and helping them survive and learn to live somewhat normal lives or capturing and studying them if they’re too violent to help.

[amazon-product]B002CLKP00[/amazon-product]The success of the webisodes led Syfy (formerly the SciFi Channel) to give the series’ producers the green light to create a 13-episode season to air in 2008. These episodes expanded on the world of the webisodes in some significant ways, but kept fans entertained (including myself) and intrigued that a second season will begin airing in October 2009. And from the sneak peek, it looks like there are some serious changes afoot for the Sanctuary team.

The world of Sanctuary is definitely a dark one, with Magnus’ actual Sanctuaries providing homes for many different strange, wonderful, and often bizarre species. In some ways, the series is like the BBC’s Torchwood, with a slightly different bent. Where the Torchwood group protects the world against alien invasions, the Sanctuary team provides a buffer between the regular world where we live and the realm of abnormals. Sometimes they help people against the Abnormals, but they always have the best interests of this other world at heart.

Among the crew helping Magnus are Dr. Will Zimmerman (Robin Dunne), a forensic psychiatrist with a sense for detail similar to Sherlock Holmes; Magnus daughter Ashley (Emilie Ullerup), a monster hunter extraordinaire with a knack for finding trouble; Henry Foss (Ryan Robbins), the group’s computer and weapons geek who also happens to be an abnormal himself; Bigfoot (Christopher Heyerdahl), Magnus’ butler, chauffeur, and bodyguard; and John Druitt (also Heyerdahl), Magnus’ former love interest who can teleport across time and space and may have been Jack the Ripper in an earlier time…

Towards the end of the first season, the Sanctuary team discovered that they are not the only group to have an interest in the world of the Abnormals. Whereas Sanctuary tries to do what’s best for the Abnormals, The Cabal is only interested in learning how better to destroy them so they can save mankind. We also met a few more members of the original five brilliant minds who have survived the last 150 years – including Nikola Tesla and Dr. James Watson (of Sherlock Holmes fame).

Though the 13 episodes of this first televised season of Sanctuary provided some amazing stories and it’s great to catch up, I have to say it’s the extras on this four DVD set that really made it worthwhile. I was hooked on the webisodes when they were released on the Internet – but I hadn’t seen them in 2007. So when you go back to the beginning, you can see the difference in quality between the initial mini-episodes to where they ended the season is impressive.

Beyond the webisodes, there are episode audio commentaries from cast and crew, bloopers, and a sneak peek at season two. But it was the behind the scenes featurettes – “Welcome to the Sanctuary,” “Sanctuary Residents,” and “Sanctuary Visual Effects” – that really showed the dedication of these talented people. Tapping, Dunne, Ullerup, Heyerdahl, Robbins are the faces we know through the episodes, but behind the scenes are others we never see. Damian Kindler created the show many years before he showed the script around and it spawned one of the most intriguing fantasy worlds on televison today.

With season two of Sanctuary on the horizon in October 2009, this is a great time to catch up on what happened in season one with the Sanctuary: The Complete First Season set. Start at the beginning and work your way to the cliffhanger at the end, for we can only hope some answers are forthcoming in the season premiere! Check out Sanctuary: The Complete First Season at your favorite retailer when it’s released on September 15, 2009.

–Fitz

p.s. Be sure to pick up Sanctuary: The Complete First Season and these other great TV series on DVD at Amazon!

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