MLA Gold Award Site

Excerpt from The Lost City by Henry Shukman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Lost City

by Henry Shukman

The Lost City
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2008, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2009, 336 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Caballo Muerto: Chapter One

This wasn't a country you would visit unless you had to, if you were born there, say, or were sent in to check up on some account. I mean country in the broad Hemingway sense: terrain, land, country. The mountains rising ghostly and huge on one side, the strangely cold ocean on the other, and in between a strip of desert so barren not even cactuses grew. Half the year a blanket of low cloud covered the desert, the infamous garua, shouldered off the back of the Humboldt Current which came up glacial from Antarctica. The other half, blazing equatorial sun fired all things into immobility—the piles of gravel and sand by the never-improved highway, rubbish at the roadside, mummified dogs, old men waiting, waiting. It was too hot to move. It was enough to get through the day. To reach six p.m., when the red balloon of the sun regularly settled on the rim of the Pacific, felt like an achievement, a deliverance.

For six months the unrelenting fog hung a hundred feet overhead. No wind stirred. A fogbound desert—hot, drizzly, mind-achingly grey. Grey sand, grey rocks, grey sky, grey concrete in the cities (there were two), grey rain when it fell, grey dawn, grey dusk, grey days. Grey ocean even: in that season the Pacific lay lifeless and limp, more like a mass of gelatine than water, with barely the energy to slap at the long grey beaches. They weren't waves, let alone breakers. Lakeside ripples. Slap—then a little slurp—then slap again. Water the colour of slate.

Two rivers, the Caballo Muerto and the Malcorazon, broke westward from the mountains to run through the country. They were freaks, spindly and seasonal, but much feted. All other rivers that rose in the mountains went eastward into the jungle. Only these two made the perverse pilgrimage to the Pacific. They descended tremendous canyons of sandstone, dropping thousands of feet in a few miles, from the glinting peaks beyond the reach of cloud to the long decline of the desert, where they formed shallow wide valleys and their riverbeds became highways of gravel threaded with rivulets that snaked and criss-crossed each other like leather thongs. Even the water was leathery here—nothing endured the heat without transformation. Lower down, nearer the coast, the canyons became suddenly green. Banana trees bushed in the valleybeds, fields of alfalfa blazed under the sun and along either rim eucalyptus trees shivered and smoked, the colour of old copper.

Just north of the northern river a dirt track forged straight at the mountains then petered out in a path which soon forked and lost itself among the rocks of the foothills. Farmers used the track, piling ancient pickups with towers of bananas and pineapples among which they perched, struggling to keep the loads from tumbling as they swayed down to market.

Late on a Thursday afternoon toward the end of the garua season an empty truck made its way up the track. From above, all you saw was a plume of dust travelling along with a kind of self-absorbed determination, as if an animal were furiously burrowing its way just under the surface, an invisible point churning up a wake of dust. Then a little black dot showed at the front of the cloud, trembling in the distance. It grew slowly, coming straight up the hill; the only moving thing in the landscape. Then it stopped. It seemed to grow broader. A tiny human figure emerged. Then, as if in slow motion, the truck turned off the path, described a large lazy circle, rocked back onto the track facing the opposite way, and trundled back in the direction of the distant ocean.

The man who had got out pulled on a rucksack and took a step to balance himself. He was a young man who stood still, watching the truck drive away. Its gurgling engine soon faded in the crunch of wheels on dirt, then that too was lost and all that remained was a low hum, until even that became indistinguishable, and the man knew he was alone. The dust kicked up by the truck dispersed, leaving a faint blemish low in the sky.

Excerpted from The Lost City by Henry Shukman Copyright © 2008 by Henry Shukman. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Everyone Brave is Forgiven
    Everyone Brave is Forgiven
    by Chris Cleave
    I've always been interested in the history of the Blitz, the period of intense aerial raids of ...
  • Book Jacket: Saving Montgomery Sole
    Saving Montgomery Sole
    by Mariko Tamaki
    Understanding identity is one the most important parts of adolescence. For some teenagers, those who...
  • Book Jacket: All Tomorrow's Parties
    All Tomorrow's Parties
    by Rob Spillman
    In this absorbing memoir, co-founder of Tin House magazine, Rob Spillman, recalls his artistic ...
Win this book!
Win The 100 Year Miracle

50 Copies to Give Away!

The 100 Year Miracle is a rich, enthralling novel, full of great characters.

Enter

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Fair Fight
by Anna Freeman

A page-turning novel set in the world of 18th century female pugilists.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
    by Phaedra Patrick

    In a poignant and sparkling debut, a lovable widower embarks on a life-changing adventure.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Alaskan Laundry
    by Brendan Jones

    A fresh debut novel about a young woman who moves to Alaska and finds herself through the hard work of fishing.

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I I A Sign O T T

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.