Sunday 8 July 2012

190. Amazon Adventure by Willard Price

Amazon Adventure by Willard Price
Published July 2012  Random House (Red Fox)

From the publisher:
 'No one has ever come out alive' Hal and Roger Hunt crash-land into the middle of a pioneering expedition to the unmapped regions of the greatest jungle on earth: the Amazon. And when their mission to explore the uncharted territory of the Pastaza River goes off course . . . it's the survival of the fittest.

Here she goes again I hear you cry, reading a book that was originally published in 1951.  That is by most people's standards 'not a new book'. True enough, but this edition is new, and I have not read a Willard Price, so as I am the one making the rules, I will allow myself to include this book.   I really wanted to see if the books have dated.  Has this book, written 60+ years ago, got what it takes to please the action adventure loving boys of today?

The answer is YES.  There are plenty of references in this book that are outdated, or politically incorrect in this day and age (I will get to those later), but on the whole I think boys will love the thrills and adventure that this story holds.  For one thing, the boys are dab hand with a shot gun, and have numerous survival kills that they put into action.  They get bitten by vampire bats, wrestle crocodiles, wrangle pythons and come face to face with a jaguar.  The descriptions of these encounters will have the boys glued to the page, and the added bonus of gory bits like the holes the vampire bats make in your flesh, and the pincers that they ants leave in your skin are just the thing for today’s young male readers.

One thing I found a bit sad in the references to the Amazon being an amazing resource, see quote below:

“Yes, you're going to see the greatest river on earth...the greatest unexplored jungle on earth...greatest storehouse of natural resources on earth.  Someday the Amazon will feed the world"

I find it sad because there is absolute truth in that comment, and the Amazon has indeed helped to feed the world, but at a huge cost.  I have read differing reports, so please don’t quote me on the facts, but approximately 20% of the Amazonian rainforest has been lost since 1970.  According to Wikipedia, in 1970, the estimated rainforest cover in the Brazilian Amazon was 4,100,000 square km, and in 2011 the total was 3,354,711square km a total loss of 745,289 square km .  The upside is that 2011 reported the slowest record of deforestation since records began.  There is a character in the book, a young farmer who is so passionate, proud and hopeful about his part in bringing the riches of the Amazon to the world, I wonder how he would feel today?

The things which are dated in the book are, technology (No emails or even faxes, they had cablegrams and radiograms instead), language (e.g.: “Perhaps one of those fellows at the Explorerer’s Club trying to have a little fun with us”), attitude to indigenous groups (in reference to a particular Indian tribe, “I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw a cathedral”) and of course the capture of the animals to take back to zoos. The capturing of animals could be (and was then) seen as being at the forefront of animal conservation.  The fact that in this book they only took one of each animal, made me wonder how much conservation would be done when that animal died in captivity….but this is only a book, fiction at that, so I shouldn’t worry so much!  

As an adult some of these things made me cringe a little, but there is actually a preface, written by Willard Price’s granddaughters, explaining that these books were written a long time ago, and things have changed a bit since then.  I don’t think younger reader would pick up on these things, at least not to the extent that it would affect how much they liked the book.  It’s that real ‘boys own’ adventure where the characters can get up to much more dangerous shenanigans than boys today could even hope for, and it’s this aspect that I think will appeal.

Who will like this book: Boys age 10+
Read it if you like: Extreme Adventures by Justin D'Ath

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