Colin Thubron seems to be a writer undaunted by immensity, either of place or plot. He has written, memorably, about China (Behind the Wall) and contemporary Russia (Among the Russians). Here, in his latest book, which happens to be a novel, he cheerfully takes on Joseph Conrad and magic realism, transplanting a Heart of Darkness narrative to the jungles of Peru, and does so with a precision and a brevity whose effects linger in the imagination.
To rewrite the supreme parable of the collision between the forces of 'civilisation' and the inhabitants of the primeval world in less than 200 pages and then, moreover, to locate that retelling in a landscape that has sometimes seemed to be the personal property of Gabriel Garc?a M?rquez, might seem not merely audacious but downright insane. The remarkable thing about To the Last City is that, having committed himself to a mission impossible, Thubron, a literary will-o'-the-wisp, comes through miraculously unscathed and finally triumphant.