In the beginning there was Erich von Däniken.
Of course this is not completely true - nobody ever creates things out of the thin air, every single idea has always been influenced by someone else, comparable to keeping the torch of the flame or wave ripples going trough the lake - we hear some informations, we soak some influences and than we create something new out of it.
Naturally, there were other people before Däniken who dared to question the church, religions and generally accepted opinions and surely Däniken himself read some of the books published trough previous generations, which in turn made him curious about the origins of our ancient world. Perhaps it was simply the case of right time and the right place, or he caught the zeitgeist of the times, in any case Däniken created unprecedented publishing phenomenon with his books about ancient astronauts - even though the official scientific world did everything to ridicule and disparage him, millions around the world (me included) were thrilled that somebody finally dares to raise the questions - not to claim, or to provide the answers, like so many of his critics concluded with exasperating self-righteousness, Däniken simply posed the questions "what if?" and his books are full of question marks, where he makes the reader thinking and wondering could the ancient history of this planet perhaps be very different from officially accepted story. Its infuriating to see how many people completely misunderstood him as someone who "claims" and "speculate" - the way I see it now, from the perspective of distinguished middle age, Däniken wondered and posed the questions, he never gave the answers.
But he created something - and maybe this is the sole purpose of his life - he started the spark that caught many readers and made them excited about different possibilities, different, unorthodox theories that might sound completely off the wall but are darn staggering, astonishing and powerful. Millions around the world gulped his books and some of us accepted the idea that perhaps the origins of our human race might be different from what is taught in school. Ask me in the middle of the night, ask me in the front of shooting squad, hanging upside down or standing on one leg, but I am simply more prone to accept the possibility of Alien intervention (read: genetic experimentation) than the idea of one omnipotent creator to whom people light the candles, surrounded by invisible, cherubic winged helpers and so on.
Graham Hancock is one of those people who came later inspired by Däniken. I still think that Däniken himself was extremely important because he ignited the original flame that caught attention of millions around the world, but other people eventually continued the path he started (once the ice was broken) and Hancock is one of them.
Not only that his book came some two decades after Däniken but the younger man actually writes far more eloquently (English being his native language) and there is a contagious enthusiasm and spirit about him, impossible to ignore. Wide eyed, excitable and very, very likable, Hancock basically continues what Däniken had started but does it in his own Indiana Jones way. Looking closely, they both actually do exactly the same things - both Däniken and Hancock travel around the world, take pictures of ancient temples, ruins in Bolivia or central America and than elaborate on proposed theories - but where Däniken being first, always comes across as defensive and argumentative (because the pressure, attacks and criticism on him were much bigger), Hancock is blessed with some good-natured charm so the readers feel the natural pull of following him, instead of fighting with his reasoning, like in case of Däniken.
I read Hancock's book "Fingerprints of the Gods" some seventeen years ago and still have the original copy bought in Amsterdam. I vividly remember the moment in my life, where I was, what was I doing and what a great excitement this book gave me. It was Däniken all over again but this time even better, somehow improved. Even though later I continued to faithfully follow Hancock and always loved his subsequent work, it is this particular book that caught my attention initially and I always have a soft spot for it, so I decided to re-visit it again just to re-fresh my memory and to check how do I feel about it now.
Guess what, I still love it. In fact, I'm reading it as for the first time - Hancock has a wonderfully contagious way with words and his excitement is palpable. Wheter he travels in the trains trough remote areas of South America or flies above The Nazca plateau, I am right with him in all these places - Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, ancient pyramids, Tiahuanaco, you name it. I might be somewhat older and perhaps a bit jaded now but years are forgotten when Graham Hancock takes me along on his adventures around the world and he also makes me question, wonder and think. Not that we as readers are expected to blindly accept him but every now and than I get a brain buzz and occasional thought flashes trough my mind, when I say to myself "wait, go back, this might be important, remember this" and the book is full of this kinds of moments. I could easily imagine being very comfortable on desert island with the whole collection of books by Graham Hancock.