AMAZING TRAVEL AND SCIENCE WRITING ON THE AMAZON, September 7, 2006
Though there are many books that describe nature in the Amazon, David Campbell definitely is among the top writers on it. In this book he offers, from start to finish, a very interesting mix between storytelling with lyrical qualities and scientific analysis with social commentary.
He is a scientist, focused on botany, and his knowledge of all aspects of science related to the forest are outstanding. We learn about the strategies employed by frogs to reproduce, or by snakes to identify prey, or by trees to attach polen to beetles. While learning about the science behind such activities and how they evolved, the author leads the reader through his travel log, meeting people and species and learning much about the history of the region he is visiting.
Besides all the interesting science, the author also provides a very deep character description of the people who live in this remote frontier. The stories range from rubber tappers left over from a period of abundance, to old indians who became westernized, to occupants moving there from the south due to government incentives. Each has a story and a way to deal with the challenges of the forest; some have a way to prosper in the exact same circumstances in which others fail. Some characters are presented as integrated in the forest, some as aliens beaten by the forest, some as leaders beating the forest.
Most amazing than all the history, social aspects and science however are the narrative abilities of the author. The book is a work of art, as it becomes clear that every word has been hand picked and every metaphor was chosen to provide the reader with the correct image, texture, taste, sound and smell of the forest. Reading is an experience of immersion and is to be savoured as very few books provide such a deep experience. It becomes quite clear to anyone reading the book that the author has a deep connection with his subject, much beyond science.
This book is the very best description of the Amazon I have encountered, written with gusto. It is the kind of book you will wish you had written. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the region, in nature writing or in popular science.