I received The Unconquered courtesy of the Goodreads First Reads program, and I will admit that I was immediately biased against it. The purpose of the expedition on which Scott Wallace tagged along is to locate ‘lost savages’. Supposedly not to contact them, but as early as the Prologue, Mr. Wallace admits his real desires:
“Any direct contact with the Arrow People could be disastrous. The tribe had no immunity to the germs we carried. We were not doctors and carried few medications . . .Yet, who among us – yes even the purist Possuelo – didn’t secretly hope for a “first contact” . . . An experience for all time, a tale to recount to wide-eyed children and grandchildren . . . We’d bedazzle the world with images of the Stone Age savages, appear on the Today show, become celebrity journalists. Maybe I’d get a book contract.”
Well, looks like you got your fancy book contract! Though, quite frankly, I don’t understand why. While I was very uncomfortable with these modern day men trying to mess with these tribespeople’s way of life (and yes, I prefer terms like “tribespeople” or “indigenous people” versus the books use of “savages” and “Indians”), I also assumed that if the man had written a 450+ page book about it, something must have happened, right? Not so much.
Basically, a group of 30 or so men set off into the Amazon, hike and camp for several months, and then turn around and come back. About half the book is just straight up infighting and gossip regarding the group of men who were stuck with each other for months. The other half of the book was split between somewhat interesting tidbits and histories of the various people who lived in the Amazon, and descriptions of the landscape.
Which brings up another point – Mr. Wallace is extremely heavy handed with his descriptions. If I were the type to skim, I certainly would have been skimming a lot of this book, as many of his descriptions went on for several paragraphs – and very unnecessarily. They read as though he wrote down a simple concept, oh, like, “The fog rolled in and surrounded our camp,” and instead of adding a few descriptive words to help the reader visualize it, he grabbed a Thesaurus and just went to town. Something as simple as some fog could easily stretch for an entire page. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought Mr. Wallace was being paid by the word.
Overall, I was personally glad to see that the outcome wasn’t what they’d hoped for, but as a reader the story was a bit dull and inevitably pointless. The interesting parts could have been whittled down to 150 pages or so, and the book would have been greatly improved if the author had managed to be more concise.