Book Review

Book Review: The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

Title: The Explorer

Author: Katherine Rundell

Genre: Fiction / Young Adult / Adventure

First Publication: 2017

Language: English

Setting Place: Heart of the Amazon jungle

Major Characters: Fred, Con & Lila (12-13 year olds), Max (Lila’s 5 year old brother), Baca (Lila’s pet /Sloth Bear) and The Explorer (A mystery for the reader to explore)


Book Summary: The Explorer

Chosen as one of The 50 Best Books of 2017 by Telegraph, Katherine Rundell’s The Explorer is an adventurous, survival tale of four youngsters who are stranded in the Amazon jungle after a plane crash.

Book Review: The Explorer

The book begins with a six-seater aeroplane taking off “like a man-made magic wish” to Manuas, Brazil, and we are slowly introduced to the protagonists aboard. In the same speed the plane ascends to the skies, the crash ensues. The plane’s wrecked beyond repair, pilot dies on the spot and the passengers on-board are left stranded. It’s in the middle of the night and at the heart of darkness, an unexpected adventure begins for these 4. In the pursuit to find their way out of this chaos, they gradually find each other. And by the time the day breaks, they’re a group united in the battle for survival. It sounded like a much less violent version of Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

While they’re trying to come to terms with the wild habitat, they chance upon a map to a lost city. Of course, a map with an X that marks the treasure. That said, what’s the fortune that’s waiting for them to explore. The enigmatic Explorer who they encounter on their treasure hunt. Followed by their journey back to civilisation form the plot outline. While the outline seems quite predictable, it’s the Author’s prose which melds poetic imagery in every other line to take this adventure to a whole new level.

As you turn the page and delve deeper into the Amazon jungle, the writing makes you feel like you’re one amongst the survivors. The lucid writing by Katherine Rundell brings alive each and every element of the jungle. An unsurpassed feat with words, which makes you go back and read a few lines time and again to experience those fleeting moments. More so, like rewinding and replaying a movie scene to comprehend the sheer brilliance.

To quote a few:

“For one second nobody breathed. The jungle waited. Then Max let out a second scream that dug deep into the night and the four of them turned and fled.”

“The fire seemed to breathe in, and then exhaled a cough of flames…
…The fire made a noise like an idea being born, a crackle that sounded like hope, and sent up a column of flames.”

“Trees dipped into the water on either side of them, like curtains at the theatre, Fred thought, the river as the stage. Two bright birds with yellow bellies flapped overhead. ‘Blue Macaws’ said Lila…
‘It’s funny,’ said Con… ‘The birds here make the birds in England look like they’re dressed for a job interview.’

“I didn’t know vultures could so much look like aunts,” said Con.

Moreover, a few lines impart wisdom in a nonchalant way. Not like taking a pedestal and talking down to the reader but more so like talking to a friend.

“’Take risks!’ said the explorer….
…But make sure the risks you take aren’t taken to impress someone else.’”

“Every human on this earth is an explorer. Exploring is nothing more than paying attention, writ large. Attention. That’s what the world asks of you. IF you pay ferocious attention to the world,
you will be as safe as it is possible to be.’”

“Look after the things you love, or else you don’t deserve to love anything.’”

More importantly, some lines just hit hard. In a time and age, where heroes falter and idols crumble, I’ve personally made a note of these words:

“Heroes don’t exist, boy – they’re inventions made up of newsprint and quotable lines and photogenic moustaches.”

The rich and intricately designed cover page and illustrations inside the book by Hannah Horn make the read quite engaging and acts as a teaser for what’s to come. Especially, the white on black, reverse print, which opens a few chapters may make the readers pause and look at the illustrations closely. Though the book is primarily targeted towards 8-12 year olds, I would recommend this for those still young and adventurous at heart. This was my next read after Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. While I was hungover Siddhartha’s pursuit for a long time, Katherine’s The Explorer did help in breaking the spell. In closing, here’s something you need to remember when you’re going to travel next.

“You should always dress like you might be going to the jungle. You never know when you might meet an adventure.”

P.S.: Once you’ve gotten your copy and before you open the book; Kindly find the coziest chair in your vicinity. And fasten your imaginary seat belts. It’s for sure going to be an expedition of a lifetime.


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