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on 11 October 2008
Back in the 1920's a whole rash of adventure stories about British explorers looking for hidden cities in the South American jungle had been written for young boys in Britain. What Rider Haggard had done for Africa with "King Solomon's Mines" and "She" T.C.Bridges and his comrades in the boys' magazines now did for the Amazon jungle and Brazil. The real lost expedition of Colonel Percy Fawcett, when he disappeared on the Tapirape River added further fuel to the flames of juvenile writing in this area. W.E.Johns, therefore, was a latecomer to this genre when he began in the mid 1930's his epic adventure of "The Cruise of the Condor". However, read any of these "lost city" stories today and you will discover that this book is "simply the best".
All the best adventure stories contain a journey; all the best fictional journeys turn into an ordeal. The heroes must always be seen as being involved in a quest; the villains must be money-grubbing treasure seekers. The introduction of Dickpa, Biggles' uncle, is central to the success of this book. His thirst for knowledge about the ancient Inca civilisation outweighs the desire of Biggles, Algy and Smyth to make a little money. Most of all what comes across about each of them is the spirit of adventure and defiance that carries them through to the end. It should be remembered that later in life Biggles is against the idea of gold -hunting. In this story he is still a very young man.
Nature in all its forms seems to be against them. W.E.Johns' descriptions of the sights and sounds of birds, beasts and insects is unrivalled for the way in which he can conjure up an economical yet horrific picture of snakes, ants, eagles, piranha fish, and jaguars. The rugged nature of the land with its sculpted mountains, its impenetrable jungles, its cataract-filled rivers with their maze-like tributaries, is matched by the ferocity of the forest-dwelling savages and their even more ruthless and brutal white adversaries. Then there is the cataclysmic weather - terrific thunderstorms and soup-like fogs. Eventually, for Biggles, Brazil is where "the mutts go to." The grim humour and the never-say-die determination carry the comrades through some amazing adventures. You keep wondering "What else can happen ?" and then something does and you are plunged into the next stage of the adventure.
Add to the above some thrilling aeroplane incidents and you have the recipe for one of the most gripping of the Biggles stories. Other writers may have attempted this type of story but none have come close to the success of W.E.Johns.
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on 22 February 2007
Under the influence of a heavy cold, I decided to re-read a classic, salvaged from my extreme youth. I think I last read it at around the age of 9, but kept it with other ancient tomes, despite many clear-outs over the years.

Before Indiana Jones had taken the dog's name, there was Biggles: hard as nails and full of the Bulldog spirit. Here, Biggles, first world war fighter ace and his support team of Smythe and Algy get involved with the black heart of South America. You come across our eponymous hero as he gets ambushed dropping in on his far-from-geriatric uncle "Dickpa" and after Biggles first demonstrates his ability to bludgeon those of an inferior race, he gets into a house-siege during which he shows his SAS credentials by not only escaping from under the enemy guns, but returning with an airplane to collect the others.

Miss Marple would have had kittens at the goings on.

Onward to Brazil - it's where the nuts come from? where the mutts go to? it's where the nuts go to? or where the mutt's nuts can be found? we get all versions at some point in the narrative.

politically correct it isn't - Brazilian officials are corrupt, 'negroes' are enslaved by loans, natives are psychopaths and Americans want the treasure - it's not in their country, but hey! 'might is right'. could those things really happen? what stands in their way is Biggles and his team and for all his individual bravado, he IS a team player.

It seems a little over-dramatic for the locals to be cannibals and the story IS dramatic, with barely a pause for the reader to reflect on the believability of the plot development. is it somewhat coincidental that a volcanic eruption occurs in the few days that they are in the area?

suspension of disbelief is a requirement for this story.

With an ending that could have inspired "The Mummy" - "Biggles and the Cruise of the Condor" stands alongside "Biggles Air Detective" as two pillars of the Temple of Adventure that I was called to as a child.

Surprisingly, there is a moment of sensitivity when Biggles finds the body of a dead rubber-trader - he seems aware of the fragility of life in that environment and how the mischance of a fever could end it all.

Some of the language may be dated and the cultural norms rather different from today's, but at its heart a Biggles story is about overcoming adversity, loyalty to ones fellows and the necessity for acts of violence towards the bad guys.
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on 27 April 2012
When I was ten years old, this was one of my favourites from the reprinted William Dean hardbacks, especially the dust jacket illustration, which obviously doesn't apply here.

I still think it's one of the strongest Biggles stories, in terms of the atmosphere it creates of the setting, in this case the Amazon. The combination of treaure, ancient history and modern adventure is still a hard one to trump. The crew also manage to fall in just the right way between humanity and upright determination.

There are one or two interesting comparisons with the version I read. This is the original, I take it, with proper adaptions from Johns' occasionally crass political incorrectness but with 1930s technical references restored - for example, the Bolivian airliner is back to being a Junkers, rather than the Douglas of the 1960s reprint.

My old copy also has some scenes excluded, presumably because they were superfluous, such as Algy's airborne tussle with the snake and the longer conclusion at the end. I'm inclined to think that was right; they don't add anything.

I haven't changed my mind from when I was little - it's a terrific, rapid fire adventure for boys of all ages - recommended!
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on 29 April 2013
A book full of excitement and adventure. Flying and treasure, earthquakes and eruptions, the book goes along at a great rate. The end is sudden but very satisfying. Altogether a thumping good read for anyone between 9 & 90. Read and enjoy.
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on 29 March 2016
One of the very best Biggles Adventures of the "non-war" stories. Beautifully evocative of the days of the British Empire with a story which sweeps our heros from europe to South America.

If you've never read a Biggles Story, it's not a bad place to start. If you have, then this is an essential addition to your collection.
I'd rank this along with some of the WWI stories as one of the all time classic Biggles books.
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on 20 April 2012
This is an old favourite book. What a shame that this Kindle edition has annoying footnotes within the text itself, unlike others where they are gathered together at the end of a chapter, or at the end of the book. Very bad editing!
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on 17 March 2015
A ripping yarn from pre-WW2 Biggles and his adventures in South America. Once again, intrepid heroics win the day against a collection of dastardly villains, nature's depradations and beasts of prey.
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on 22 July 2015
who doesnt like biggles and this one is not set in the war which makes it a little bit different nostalga in a book brings back memories of school librarys and british heros, what more could you ask.
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on 15 February 2013
Fantastic read. Relived childhood memories. Would recommend for all ages. Although I don't have the actual book at least I was able to down load on my kindle and can re-read at any time.
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on 13 April 2013
I've not read this book for a long time, but it takes me straight back to my formative years, action adventure and fine comrades, excellent, it should have been made into a film..
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