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Wood Grain
Nonfiction Book Review of The Darkest Jungle
The Darkest Jungle Book

The Darkest Jungle

by Todd Balf

In the mid 1800s there was a feverous rush to find a quicker route for ships to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The Darkest Jungle is the true story of a task force led by Lieutenant Isaac Strain of the US Navy to find a path across the jungle near present day Panama. The deceptively narrow section of land quickly turns into a nightmare of parasites, starvation, confusion, and worse.

To review The Darkest Jungle is a bit tough for me because of mixed feelings. The beginning of the book was a bit difficult to follow because of the way it jumped around between different time periods and expeditions. A great deal of the information set the stage and laid the groundwork for the Strain expedition, but with so many different names and time periods it became confusing and took away from the main storyline. The book also seemed a bit anti-climatic because of a great deal of after the expedition history, which was interesting, but again it really took away from the expedition itself.

The details of the expedition are the reason for my mixed feelings on the review of the book, which is one of the purest stories of exploration and adventure to be found. Not only is the expedition in The Darkest Jungle an absolutely fascinating account of human endurance, but also details just how brutal the jungle can be.

Overall I felt like the book could have spent more time expanding on the expedition itself and less time on previous expeditions and after the fact history. I do appreciate the information, but would prefer to research it on my own after reading about the book. I would recommend the book to true fans of the history of exploration, but as for survival and human endurance books there are better ones out there.

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