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A tour of mystery and speculation
on August 3, 2001
Through the high altitude ruins of Peru and the dust-dry deserts of Chile, across the fertile range of Argentina and the carnival-infested streets of Rio, David Childress seeks the unknown, the undetermined, the secretive and the source of strange rumors; of vanished cities and twelve-foot-tall giants; and though he finds relatively little in the way of closure for the mysteries presented in _Lost Cities and Ancient Mysteries of South America_, one must remember it is the trip, not the destination, that buoys the author along...and for the casual reader, there is much to learn.
Despite his hyperbolic claims, Childress is definitely not an archeologist, a profession that tends to be dry, dusty, and for the most part dull-rather, he is a shoestring traveler with a yen for history and adventure. Which suits this material fine: instead of a `professional' report detailing one particular society as it lived and co-existed in its environment, Childress' breezy travelogue takes us through a dozen different societies, ancient and modern, with a fair amount of speculation that most academics wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole: the lost continents of Atlantis and Mu and how they relate to the rise of Inca civilization; supposed alien visitors; Amazon dinosaurs still on the prowl; a tunnel system spanning the American continent; a half-dozen myths of missing gold-hordes... nothing here that would impress the professor, but it certainly is an entertaining read, and the theories about South America's ancient colonies, including the Irish (!), Egyptians and Romans, are fun to ponder over.
Moreover, Childress' tone throughout places his book above the usual alternative-history exhortations, for he takes each and every story/legend with a grain of salt, even discrediting some by pointing to obvious discrepancies. By compiling these theories, he lets the reader sort through it all rather than try to hammer in a belief structure. The good-natured ease of the author's voice as he distills these legends/theories makes this tome a pleasant affair rather than tedious or obnoxious.
One thing did bother me: because of a variety of problems, including low funds, low energy, and the dangers involved in trekking through out of the way regions (snakes, mountain cats, cocaine smugglers), Childress doesn't actually visit the majority of the sites/cities he writes about. This is rather disappointing, as are the numerous typos and grammatical mistakes. One star deduction.
Recommended to those interested about South America and/or alternative history.