When he was a boy, Andrés Ruzo heard from his grandfather the mysterious tale about a river deep into the Amazon, whose waters are as boiling hot as if there is a fire burning underneath it. This haunting story is at the basis of Ruzo’s debut novel The Boiling River, which traces the discoveries a young explorer on his expedition into the depths of the Amazon in an attempt to resolve the peculiar legend of the boiling river. The scientist encounters many personal, scientific and political obstacles along the way and ultimately appeals to the responsible reader and his moral obligation for preserving the heritage and natural beauty of this place.

‘The Boiling River’ by Andrés Ruzo Book Review

Ruzo himself is now a geoscientist, focusing on geothermal studies as well as a National Geographic Young Explorer. Investigating the legend from his childhood led him to the Shanay-timpishka, loosely translated as “boiled with the heat of the sun.” The “Boiling River” of the Amazon is also a sacred site to the indigenous tribes, who believe that the water is so hot because of the mystical serpent-like spirit Yacumama. The waters there can reach over 95 °C (203 °F). The locals can brew their tea, and small animals, who have the misfortune to fall or enter, are instantly cooked. But the greatest mystery of this phenomenon is that the location of “boiling river” is some 700 km (435 miles) away from the nearest volcano — nowhere near enough for this to be a logical explanation.

As far as the story goes, The Boiling River is a truly gripping tale about searching for the truth. It conveys a sense of mystery and mysticism in the protagonist’s underlying motivation to embark on this journey — an old legend that his grandfather told him when he was a young boy — as well as his encounters with locals, including a shaman, who mentors and guides him towards unveiling the truth behind the myth. This said, in its plot structure, Ruzo’s book resembles a typical quest story, yet its scientific dimensions make it uniquely modern and relevant.

The reader is aware from the very beginning that this will be a scientific exploration more so than a quest of literary turns and twists. Ruzo’s excitement about this discovery permeates each page and brings an almost contagious enthusiasm, inspiring his reader’s scientific curiosity. What potential

What potential The Boiling River has in its original story, however, is undermined by the simplicity of its language. The legend’s mysticism hence seems somewhat diminished. Ruzo’s writing feels too academic at times. He strings his sentences in a manner that gets us from point A to point B on a pre-determined path. This makes the book sound more like a treatise against the political forces that might interfere in the Amazon region than a scientific paper or a work of literature. The Boiling River is perhaps most gripping when it is personal rather than critical of societal structures, when the mythical overpowers the scientific.

The Boiling River is expected for publication on February 16, 2016 by Simon & Schuster.

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