As you read this you will just keep saying I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of this before. Warring cannibal tribes in a hidden valley, tragic airplane crash with surviving barefoot bombshell and two men, one gravely injured. Can’t land a plane, can't get there with helicopters, constant threat of Japanese, what do you do? Put together a MacGyver inspired rescue plan involving an industrial rubber band and a glider. OMG, are you kidding me? This story was awesome!
I should say this is a very real story, with real people and real tragedy. I don't mean to make light of those aspects but it is really hard not do gravitate to the fantastical nature of the headlines this had to have generated in its day.
Listen to this on a trip from Las Cruces to Dallas and back for Christmas. I picked this book because my in-laws were with us and I wanted something we would all be interested in and a book we could finish on the trip (without having to listen non-stop).
This turned out to be a great choice. Everyone enjoyed the narration by the author. My father-in-law who listens to a LOT of audio books said he thought this was one of the best narrations he's heard. The pacing of the story is great. Zuckoff provides enough background information on the characters to understand both how they got to New Guinea and what their motivations are. The presentation is dramatic without sliding into melodrama. There is a bit of foreshadowing, but just enough keep the story going without getting annoying.
This is a little known piece of history and a remarkable story of survival. However, I agree with reviewer Larson that it is not well-presented, continually going off on a tangent, telling us the life history of every minor player. It is one thing for a journalist to do detailed research; it is quite another to decide what to include in a book. There is really only enough material here for a good short story or novella. I must say that, given that these soldiers crashed while taking joy rides to a primitive, unexplored area, it seems that the Army had nearly unlimited resources to pour into the rescue of these 3 people. The 3 survivors are certainly heros; their commanding officers should have been disciplined. The book doesn't compare to the quality of similar tales of courage under extreme duress, such as Unbroken. So far as the narration goes, unlike many authors, Zuckoff does a good job.
I put off listening to this book due to a couple reviews that gave mediocre ratings. What a mistake! Lost in Shangri-La is a wonderfully researched and beautifully written about one of the more interesting "silent missions" at the end of the Second World War. Zuckoff makes an engaging narrator to his novel, neither becoming monotone or annoying during the read. With a true newspaperman's approach to the endeavor, Zuckoff delves into the history and development of his characters aboard the ill-fated C-47, the Gremlin Special, their hardships and a survival story worthy of a movie. The meeting of cultures of the natives of a remote Dutch New Guinea valley and the 20th Century warriors who stumble into their midst is just a flat out four-star recipe for an interesting tale. Enjoyable especially to anyone with an interest of the Second World War in the Pacific, this is a fine use of a credit.
Me, myself, and I.
The thing that fascinates me most about history is that it contains so much....history. There are nooks and crannies in the world that contain the most fascinating stories, and I have to imagine that most of the best ones will go undiscovered for eternity. In their place, we still have a treasure trove of the most harrowing, enlightening, exciting, and sad stories that we could ever dream up. World War 2 seems to be a breeding ground for these stories, and Lost in Shangri-La reveals another tiny corner of these nooks and crannies.
Mitchell Zuckoff writes a good story about an interesting event. The survival, heroism, and bravery on display here are unquestionable. That a rescue mission was carried out in this extremely remote and dangerous place is a testament to the honor of our soldiers in WW2. Unfortunately, I couldn't shake the feeling that this really was a story about some people on a joy ride who made a mistake. Because of that mistake, many people died, and many others were put into harms way. It is a story worth telling not because of the bravery of those who avoided death in the initial crash, but rather because of those who cleaned up the mess afterwards.
And I know that sounds awfully harsh. Mitchell Zuckoff does a great job of extracting every detail out of the event and relaying those details to us in a fine manner. I have no particular quibbles with the way that this was done, other than those mentioned earlier. I think his narration is fine, and the story he tells feels complete -- it feels like we understand the backstory well, the events that occurred, and how it impacted both the valley, its native inhabitants, and those that got out alive. In the end, though, I can't shake this feeling that it isn't quite enough to convince me that I should evangelize this story and book to others.
Instead, I'll say that it is better than average, probably almost very good, but nothing more than that.
Authors I like: Patrick O'Brian, Frederick Forsyth, Jane Austen, John Le Carre, Alan Furst, Jon Krakauer, Ernest Hemingway.
Overall the tale grabbed my attention from the beginning, and it gave me that unique pleasure of an audio book in that it made me happy to wake up on a Monday morning and realize that I was going to get to immerse myself in the story again as I commuted to work. But as the story progressed it just seemed to lose a little steam. In all, it felt like a really good article from a magazine like Smithsonian that had been padded out into a book.
Part of this is not really the author's fault but rather the result of history. In particular I mean how the survivors, temporarily stranded among the native inhabitants of "Shangri-La," were in periodic contact with the outside world including journalists who were intent on keeping a great human interest story alive and selling papers. This whole P.T. Barnum aspect of the story was somewhat depressing, but of course it really happened and was a valid part of the story.
The key point of interest in this tale is the valley dubbed Shangri-La where an isolated group of aboriginals lived. The rescue mission itself, when it finally is carried out, honestly isn't all *that* interesting. I don't think it lived up to the title's claim that this one was "the most incredible rescue mission of World War II."
This was a great story and well told. I also liked all of the background on the people who were involved in the event that happened just before the end of WWII. I will admit that it was especially interesting to me because I am a pilot and because I spent a little time in that part of what was Dutch New Guinea, in the mid 90's. I love books like this one.
Unique Literary Experience
The persistence and originality of the rescuers.
When the rescuers arrived in Shangri-La
There were many.
It's the story of good men and women locked in a desperate struggle far away from their homes.
These are some of the real people of our greatest generation.
Yes. It was impossible to turn off!
This is a fantastic true story that will leave the listener wanting the story to go on and on. You will find yourself intertwined in the lives of these brave men and women and if you are American you will be proud to be so even more after this book! Well done!
The factual representation and the weaving in of a storyteller's point of view
Lt. McCollom - Pretty typical of the WW II military... He was there (in the military) because he wanted to be, was scared, and was strong.
Exactly the same as the book's Lost in Shangri-La
My father was in WW II and in New Guinea. This story resembles his experiences.