Charles Ashbacher (Marion, Iowa United States)
The format of the story is that of an aged black man retelling the primary adventure of his youth.
In 1965, before there were cell phones, GPS tracking devices and when the Amazon was truly a dense unexplored and unexploited region, a professor led a research team deep into the area. It was a prospecting expedition, paid for by a chemical company and their goal was to take soil samples and bring them back for study. The narrator is a black man named Nathan, his twin brother Mark has joined him in the expedition and they are at the lowest positions in the mission hierarchy. There are two reasons for this, the first is that they are students and the second is that they are black. Two of the other members of the expedition are white boys from the south, full of all the prejudicial views such people of the time grew up with, after all it is 1965.
Once they leave the river and begin the trek through the forest, the danger begins. With the exception of their translator that has been given the name Tonto, none of their guides can be trusted. When they arrive at a native village, their reception is always problematic; they have no idea if they will be aided as friends or killed as enemies. With the exception of their professor, none of the members of the expedition has had any experience in surviving in the jungle.
Death stalks them at every turn, sometimes it slithers, other times it swims, but most of the time it walks on two legs and resembles their form. As the difficulties mount, the white men come to depend on the two black men and a strong bond is formed as they must struggle to find their way through the jungle and avoid the many dangers.
The story is a thriller that will keep your attention and there is a second tense moment that occurs decades later when Nathan is forced to come literally face-to-face with the consequences of his actions during the expedition. So much has changed in the Amazon in those decades and going back now means that you have the aid of modern devices such as cell phones and GPS trackers. The Amazon area has also dramatically changed, development has moved deep into the forest and displaced many native tribes.
Adventures like this can now only be undertaken in retrospect, as the modern world has encroached on nearly every location. This one reminds us of what happens when cultures clash, even when the clash is not physical. It is a great story of adventure, struggle and a form of triumph.