A brief debut book about a young, Peruvian-born geologist’s adventures in the Amazon.
Ruzo begins with an interesting premise: his grandfather had filled him with boyhood tales of an Amazonian river so hot that it boils. Now, decades and degrees later, he sets out to find it, mindful of his grandfather’s valediction: “But remember: the jungle keeps her secrets well, and she is not afraid to keep those who come after them.” Against the thought of a river with such turbulent properties, the author found numerous forces arrayed against him, not least establishment science, whose representatives scoff at the thought that the relatively stable geothermal region of the Amazon might conceal a boiling river. It did not help that grandpa was by then suffering from dementia and that the whole enterprise was seeming more and more legendary. Still, Ruzo pressed on, and he discovered that the story involved numerous players: anthropologists, shamans, bureaucrats, indigenous peoples who want more than anything to be left alone, oil explorers for whom a boiling river might be anathema, since it could well boil away any petroleum tucked away below the surface. The story is a promising one, but it has too many moving parts to be neatly contained in so short a space, particularly when it gets to the heart of the matter: how the jungle, once explored, is almost certainly doomed to development. No one after Redmond O’Hanlon has ever gone to the Amazon thinking it would be easy, but Ruzo too often slips into vague mysticism just at the moment his narrative should take on a hard edge: “his river challenges what we think we know”; “There is so much hidden in the world, occulted in the everyday—both in the unknown and in what we think we understand.”
An earnest and well-intended effort but an outline for an adventure story more than that story itself.