Customer Review

537 of 599 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Soldiers and Jungle Queens, April 30, 2011
This review is from: Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II (Hardcover)
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In the year 1945, on the island of what was then titled Dutch New Guinea, an Army base full of soldiers & WACS were stationed there waiting for shipment out to the Philippines. While killing time waiting for their next set of orders, they embark on mini day trips soaring the skies above the jungle canopy into the land of towering mountains and magical panoramic terrain. A native village had been sighted and those who enlisted for these special sightseeing flights were dubbed members of The Shangri-La Society. Flying over this village that was hidden deep in the valley gorges was extremely dangerous due to low visibility through cloud enshrouded mountains. Tight hairpin turns in between gorges didn't leave a whole lot for airplane maneuverability. On one such run, the airplane nicknamed the Gremlin Special, took off for a day of fun to only end in tragedy. Clouds came in swiftly blocking visibility, causing a catastrophic plane crash that killed 24 men and women instantly. Three lucky survivors, although seriously burned, miraculously walked away.

Lost in Shangri-La is the amazing story of their many months spent deep in the perilous jungle of New Guinea. Lost and alone, they were in drastic need of food, water, supplies, and more than anything, medical attention. John McCollum, Kenneth Decker, and a beautiful blonde petite WAC named Margaret Hastings were in rough shape. Maggie's legs were horribly burned, Decker's entire backside was worse, and although McCollum was able to walk away uninjured, he lost his twin brother in the flames. Walking to a nearby hillside brought the trio a little hope when the jungle walls parted and a group of frightening natives emerged, bows and arrows and spears at the ready.

The story proceeds to detail the many ups and downs and daily obstacles the three survivors must endure, along with their enchantment of living amongst a lost tribe as if they had gone back in time to early civilization to visit primitive cave men. Eventually Army scouts locate them, drop supplies and follow up with a carefully planned daring rescue attempt. A dangerous mission in itself, finding a way to get their people out when no plane, boat, or helicopter can get close enough to the ground to land, puts the military to the test.

I found the story of Lost in Shangri-La immensely interesting. For certain the event was a rare unusual accident for those that survived the trauma, yet lived to witness a primitive society previously unknown to man. That aspect of the book I enjoyed. However, I never really felt a great deal of intensity of hazard for what they experienced. I was not riveted or sitting on the edge of my seat. I believe that was the fault of the style of writing Zuckoff used. The execution of the story was at times very dry, almost too factual, and had a carefree attitude in the telling of these events. The writing itself, for me, didn't portray the drama that this event certainly must have had.

A major gripe I had was that there was a lot of filler and fluff. Serious editing needed to be performed on this manuscript. The author detailed way too much background history on every single person mentioned in the story. Everyone's childhood, family, school, careers, was just too much information not applicable to the main heart of the story. I think if a lot of that boring data had been taken out, the book would have been more enjoyable. I found myself skipping paragraphs of this mundane minutia, wishing for additional stories of the natives themselves and the interaction between the two parties. It's a good story, but it certainly could have been better with a little more literary drama to give it some zip.
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Tracked by 10 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 55 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 2, 2011 4:22:31 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jul 4, 2011 8:30:53 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on May 2, 2011 4:42:42 PM PDT
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on May 2, 2011 4:49:07 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jul 4, 2011 8:31:04 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on May 2, 2011 4:58:55 PM PDT
Thank you again. I just looked at the books you have reviewed. There were some I didnt agree with you on, but that's what we reviewers must remember when writing about them. One man's trash is another man's treasure and what one person likes in a book, another might hate. I try hard to give both the good and the bad in a review unless it really really stinks. I have over 250 reviews that I've done for Amazon, Goodreads, and Librarything over the past five years and I've learned a lot about reviewing. My reviews now are a lot better than they were five years ago and I've learned for the most part how to write them so they become helpful to others when they vote, even if I personally thought the book was aweful for whatever reason. Every month we get flooded with books, I get ARC's from many places, and with so many, it's only normal to expect only a few to be outstanding. Thank you for liking my review on Lost in Shangri-La, for some reason in only two days I've gotten 22 positive votes and one non positive. Pretty fast which means it's a book people are checking out right now as a hot one to read.

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2011 12:47:48 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 12, 2011 12:27:42 PM PDT
It's interesting to note that S.L. Parker would base his/her purchase of the book on the basis of a 3 star rating and supposedly ignore the 28 4 or 5 star evaluations. While Ms. Mancini states her case rather well, I think the points she takes issue with are well placed and enhance the book signficantly. Perhaps she sees LOST IN SHANGRI-LA from a fiction point of view which is fine.But since my reading leans toward non-fiction, the chapter on the background explorations of New Guinea in the 1930's lends an important frame of reference to the story. In addition, the focus on the characters prior to the crash is essential to development of victims' backgrounds. In my estimation, Zuckoff does a fine job of blending "sub-stories" to the overall picture, giving the reader a feel for not only who the principals of the story were, but why they acted in their own particular manners. Unlike Ms. Mancini, I did feel the book was a compelling story and since I teach history, I can attest to the fact that there's a lot of writing out there with nowhere near the mesmerizing narrative Zuckoff includes in LOST IN SHANGRI-LA.

Lynn Robert Fairbanks

In reply to an earlier post on May 3, 2011 1:49:59 PM PDT
Thanks Lynn for your posting. I didn't look at the book with a fictional slant by any means, I read a lot of non-fiction too. And I totally agree with you that background history on the three survivors were necessary. But not everyone, not every minor person throughout the book needed to be detailed. Of course it was necesarry for some of the players, that goes without saying. I just thouht there was too much of it. And for me, I would have liked to have read about more the interaction between the natives and the survivors. But this is why there are all kinds of books for all kinds of people. Like everything else, it goes in with "beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and one man's trash is another man's treasure." We all have our interests and opinions which is why the Vine program and it's forum helps us all.

Posted on May 4, 2011 6:11:21 AM PDT
rck12 says:
Just finished reading my awaited copy, and totally agree with Jeannie's review...especially the 'major gripe'.
Well reviewed and rated at 3 stars, nothing left to say.

RCK

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2011 7:53:25 AM PDT
Thank you Rick for agreeing with me and liking my review. I appreciate that. -Jeannie

Posted on May 4, 2011 8:06:07 AM PDT
Soars says:
It was precisely the background details make this story so incredibly riveting!

In an era when all too many authors look only at what others have written, and too often take even that out of context, the care and incredible efforts made by Mr. Zuckoff to get the fullest story story are just amazing. This is the "real deal." My hat's off to him!

One small group of World War II soldiers, most of whom died on a remote mountain top, are no longer forgotten.

In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2011 5:45:40 PM PDT
S. Kerr says:
This book "smells" like a great Movie...with proper editing.
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