Along the River that Flows Uphill - the book and the reviews
For Richard Starks, the commission offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to test himself against the standards set by his childhood explorer-heroes – men like Burton, Speke, Baker, Livingstone and, especially, Henry Morton Stanley. For Miriam Murcutt, the commission was simply a welcome chance for adventure.
The two authors hired a boat and an Indian guide to take them 1,000 miles up the Orinoco and along the length of the Casiquiare to the Rio Negro, which flows into the Amazon near the town of Manaus in Brazil. They expected to travel only with their guide, but when they boarded his boat, they found he had brought along his extended family, as well as a party of Venezuelan fish-researchers and a young, overly persistent entomologist.
Along the River that Flows Uphill is an account of the authors’ journey. It begins conventionally enough, but when a Yanomami hunter threatens to shoot them with a poisoned arrow, the authors are forced to confront the risks they are taking. Richard Starks – from whose point of view the book is told – retreats to his roots and blends science, math and reason in an attempt to rationalize that risk and to question his courage as measured against that of his hero, Henry Morton Stanley.
This need to rationalize risk surfaces again when FARC guerrillas attempt to kidnap the authors and hold them for a $20,000 ransom.
Along the River that Flows Uphill has been well reviewed by readers and critics. It is published in the United States and United Kingdom by Haus Publishing, London, as part of its Armchair Traveller series of literary travel books.
Reviews of Along the River that Flows Uphill
"Wonderfully entertaining. This is an extremely intelligent book - very well written with a few surprises along the way. The authors introduce the reader to a world that many have never heard of and even fewer will ever visit. Along the River that Flows Uphill - from the Orinoco to the Amazon is not just a story but a real-life adventure that takes twists and turns along a remarkable stretch of water that remains nearly untouched. The authors not only give a stunning account of their adventures, but also provide intriguing background information as they go through their journey. The reader feels as though she joined the authors on the trip. They draw the reader in and make the book nearly impossible to put down." - RebeccasReads book review website.
"Along the River that Flows Uphill is a pocket-sized delight full of characters so complex and delightful that they almost seem unreal...The way in which Starks and Murcutt embark on their adventure is nothing if not that pursuit of the unexpected - there is a sense of the unknown and more than a little excitement from the outset when they step off the plane in Caracas...The easy-flowing prose is scattered with information about the history and people of the areas they visit, and there is a nod to social conscience along with details of the rather suspect scientific practices of the late 1960s." - The List, Scotland's arts, events and entertainment magazine.
"Five out of five stars. The authors relate their adventures along the mysterious (Casiquiare river) in vivid detail, including a brush with a tribe of Yanomami Indians and a potentially dangerous confrontation with FARC guerrillas. Their reflections on the sights, wonders, and wistful beauties of a little-travelled path make for an unforgettably vivid travelogue." - Midwest Book Review.
"Starks and Murcutt discuss inventive creation stories, mathematical formulas relevant to everyday life and South American history, while alluding to the idea that misinterpreting risk could lead to death but it may perhaps set you free. They are effective in telling their story, while at the same time persuading their readers to book a flight, hail a taxi, shadow a local and wander into the sections of the map where 'here be dragons' is inscribed." - Boston's Weekly Dig.
“Authors Starks and Murcutt confront the inner narratives that have given them a passion for adventure and exploration but which have, at the same time, placed them in danger. The travel narrative that results is an absorbing review of well-known historical explorers whose journals came to define the risk, danger and discovery involved in European’s encounter with unfamiliar lands in the Americas, Africa and Asia.” - World Literature Today.
“I love this book; it’s really dramatic. It’s an armchair traveler book - very adventurous -but using you - the authors - as our ‘glasses’, we can see an incredible people (the Yanomami) who have rarely been viewed before. It’s awesome.” – Sandy Dhuyvetter, Executive Producer and Host of TravelTalkMEDIA.
"I read your book from cover to cover. And so now I say - well done. Very interesting. As an adventure-sport risk-management ‘expert’, I was waiting for the risk discussions, which didn't come to fruition until the end but were planted as seeds in the middle. I enjoyed the many other educating thoughts on explorers, the river, the political situation (in Venezuela), the risk formulas, and the moral dilemmas, etc. Thanks for the opportunity to read the book.” - Tracey Knutson, partner in Knutson Associates, a legal firm specializing in adventure risk management.