When a common normal person, anyone of us, suddenly finds himself or herself in a life-and-death situation in the middle of the forest, would he or she know how to survive?
This is the simple dilemma that is offered to the protagonist of our story, who, returning from a relaxing holiday in Namibia on a typical photographic safari, is involved in an unexpected extreme survival situation in the Ituri forest, in the Republic of Congo in Africa when the plane he was in gets shot down by rebels. A place where Nature is not the only enemy and where survival is not the only problem.
A classic scented adventure which makes this book the perfect place to escape reality and feel within you, the anguish and despair of the hero while facing the challenges he is presented with. This book smoothly blends emotion and tension when faced with the challenge to survive, but also the psychological degradation of the protagonist throughout the story and an in-depth study on the environment, the animals, the plants as well as the people, that the author carried out. It also teaches us that our perception of where our limits lie are usually wrong, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.
This novel comes highly recommended. (Summary and pic from goodreads.com)
My Review: When I requested this book, it had three things going for it: 1) It was chosen as the best young adult fiction novel for 2014 in Spain 2) It outsold Catching Fire in Spain 3) It sounded really exciting! So, first off, let me say that this was a decent read. With all of the awards and acclaim (I mean, it outsold Catching Fire!) I expected something amazing. Well, it was not amazing, but it did have some fun things about it.
Perhaps the greatest strength of this book is the level of detail. It is incredibly detailed. The story itself is not super complicated—a man is riding in an airplane that crashes and is stuck in a rainforest in the Congo and must survive. Most of the time the details are based on the actual rainforest and the surviving. I was completely impressed by the level of detail, actually. The plants, the animals, the environment, what was happening was all described in great detail, including footnotes of the scientific names. The premise of this book is that the narrator falls asleep and dreams all of this, and yet it is so detailed and so vivid that it felt like a real-life adventure story. I would not have been surprised at all if this was actually a memoir and that the man had actually lived this, because it was imagined in such incredible detail and with such accuracy. It seems like it was uncommonly developed for a book that was just a dream. I really enjoyed that about it. It had the feel of a realistic story, and in fact I have read a book about an adventure where Teddy Roosevelt was captured and lost among the natives in a rainforest and this was very similar in detail and knowledge. It was very apparent that Calle had done his research and had fleshed out the back story, which made for a rich background and a very believable adventure.
In regard to the writing, it was written in Spanish and then translated. I would not say that this book had the greatest translation in all of literature. I always knew what was going on, everything was very clear, but there were many minor mistakes that would come from a translator whose native language was not English and wasn’t as perfectly accurate as others might be. For instance, there were a few places where the order of words was mixed up, a few dropped s’s here and there, and some incorrect verb tenses. Like I said, it was very understandable and wasn’t a poor translation, per se, but it was certainly not a perfect translation and these mistakes were obvious.
Now. Do I think that this book should have outsold Catching Fire? Umm…no. Yes, it was adventurous, yes it was an interesting and imaginative story, but it was not gripping-read-it-till-its-done-you-have-to-know-what-happens-at-all-expenses. I can imagine that in Spain, however, with a local author that this book would do well. Its fun to support your countrymen and it is possible that in Spanish it is very beautiful and poignant, although this was missing somewhat because of the translation. I’m not sure why it was considered a juvenile fiction read as the main character was an adult, but it would be appropriate for a juvenile audience.
Overall, I would say this is a pretty standard adventure story with lots of detail and research. If you are into true-life adventure stories, this is something you would enjoy.
My Rating: 3 stars
For the sensitive reader: This book is clean, although there are some isolated acts of guerilla war violence.