If you have seen and enjoyed the John Huston film of the same name, and believe it to be one of the greatest films ever produced, then it is mandatory to procure and read this book.
This review is written from the perspective of someone who has seen the film at least a half dozen times before reading the novel for the first time. The film is mostly faithful to the novel, so no nasty surprises await those weaned on the film. While less dramatic in some ways, the book provides a better explanation for the motivations of the characters. This necessarily leads to significant, though not unpleasant, changes in some of their fates compared to the film (or perhaps, better said, vice-versa). Some of the more interesting scenes also are expanded, such as the encounter with the bandits at the camp, and more background is provided about the bandits themselves and the efficient and clever way that they are ultimately dealt with by the local people.
Though a little slow going at first, once accustomed to Traven's writing style and well into the meat of the story, the feeling of the realization that a very special experience is in store for you simply builds and builds and continues doing so until the satisfying conclusion of the book is reached. This is a masterpiece, a gourmet treat for the soul, a book to relish during a lazy morning spent in a soft bed, or sitting by a cozy fireplace.
As in many screen adaptations, seemingly ancillary elements were culled for the film. However, those elements, namely the description of the factors which led to the oppression of the native peoples of Mexico, provides a pervasive, unifying theme throughout the novel. This lends an enriching, interesting counterpoint to the story of the central characters.
There is a tiny bit of information given about the mysterious B. Traven, just enough to make you want to learn more. A speculative look at his identity is presented in the extras which are included with the newly-released reissue of the film on DVD.