It’s December 1997, and a man-eating tiger is on the prowl outside a remote village in Russia’s Far East. The tiger isn’t just killing people, it’s annihilating them, and a team of men and their dogs must hunt it on foot through the forest in the brutal cold. As the trackers sift through the gruesome remains of the victims, they discover that these attacks aren’t random: the tiger is apparently engaged in a vendetta. Injured, starving, and extremely dangerous, the tiger must be found before it strikes again.
As he re-creates these extraordinary events, John Vaillant gives us an unforgettable portrait of this spectacularly beautiful and mysterious region. We meet the native tribes who for centuries have worshipped and lived alongside tigers, even sharing their kills with them. We witness the arrival of Russian settlers in the 19th and early 20th centuries, soldiers and hunters who greatly diminished the tiger populations. And we come to know their descendants, who, crushed by poverty, have turned to poaching and further upset the natural balance of the region.
This ancient, tenuous relationship between man and predator is at the very heart of this remarkable book. Throughout, we encounter surprising theories of how humans and tigers may have evolved to coexist, how we may have developed as scavengers rather than hunters, and how early Homo sapiens may have fit seamlessly into the tiger’s ecosystem. Above all, we come to understand the endangered Siberian tiger, a highly intelligent super-predator that can grow to 10 feet long, weigh more than 600 pounds, and range daily over vast territories of forest and mountain.
Beautifully written and deeply informative, The Tiger circles around three main characters: Vladimir Markov, a poacher killed by the tiger; Yuri Trush, the lead tracker; and the tiger himself. It is an absolutely gripping tale of man and nature that leads inexorably to a final showdown in a clearing deep in the taiga.
©2010 John Vaillant (P)2010 Random House
“Suspenseful and majestically narrated.... Vaillant has written a mighty elegy that leads readers into the lair of the tiger and into the heart of the Kremlin to explain how the Amur tiger went from being worshipped to being poached.” (Publishers Weekly)
“The Tiger is the sort of book I very much like and rarely find.... In addition to tiger lore and scalding adventure, Vaillant shows us Russia’s far east and its inhabitants, their sometimes desperate lives interwoven with the economics of poaching and the politics of wildlife conservation. I was startled to learn about the zapovedniks and Russia’s primary place in global conservation. This is a book not only for adventure buffs, but for all of us interested in wildlife habitat preservation.” (Annie Proulx)
The first half is a combination of Russian History and Tiger Conservation Education and alot of it. Second half gets to the heart of the story,which is really engaging and remarkable. I have to say because of all the Russian references to geography and characters, it may have been easy to keep track of names and places if I had read rather than listened. However the author reads his story very well.
The descriptions of the tiger were amazing, but the degree to which you get a feel for the persons, biology and history of the region is amazing.
The essentials of the story are very short, and quite exciting and interesting. The entirety of the book arises from the authors masterful use of history and background to create a vast tapestry depicting millennia.
It's not a novel
Yes, but it's too long to do so. I listened to it in three sittings.
Wonderful -- much better than I anticipated. Listen if you are interested in Tigers, wilderness, Russia, or just curious about the world.
Also, check out the movie "Happy People, A Year in the Taiga," an amazing film about people living in the same region as The Tiger.
Listen while I work, ride, drive & run.
Fascinating learning on the tiger and Taiga (environment), Russia & China (geopolitical analysis) and people and hunters (storying-telling): all wrapped up in one.
I was led to this book by audible's recommendations, and it sounded interesting enough. It looked like it would fit the mold of three books I have really enjoyed recently; Unbroken by Laura Hillebrand, and Destiny of the Republic and River of Doubt by Candice Millard. These were all notable for taking historical episodes that are little known now, but naturally incredibly interesting stories, and applying the skills of a gifted storyteller to them. The result in each case was a page-turning and edifying read, and I thought I'd get the same thing here. A brave band of intrepid hunters chasing down a vengeful man-eating tiger in the freezing forests of Russia? How can that not be riveting? I expected therefore to like the book, but ended up being disappointed. I made it through but only with considerable effort.
Vaillant's writing style is well-suited for this work, and it is obvious he did extensive research. The effort involved shows through. It almost seems, though, as if he went out there intending to write a book on an incredible story, and then discovered, after a great deal of time and effort, that the story was just not as interesting as he thought, but decided he'd done the work and had to go through with the book anyway.
Previous reviewers are correct that there is a much material covering the history and sociology of post-Perestroika Russia. Too much, in my opinion; I could have enjoyed some of that but there was more here than I needed. The information on Tiger biology and behavior, and on the hunting of tigers, held my interest better.
Valliant's format is in fact very similar to the one Millard employs in her books. Begin In Media Res; then go back to the beginning; then alternate chunks of relevant background material with chunks of story advancement. The main problem in The Tiger, I believe, is that the protagonist, antagonist, and events are just not big enough. When Candice Millard goes off on a backstory tangent about Teddy Roosevelt or the early Amazon explorers or James Garfield or Alexander Graham Bell, the material there is gripping. These are big people who did big things. The hunters described by Vaillant were rugged and determined and all that, but Teddy Roosevelt they were not.
The tiger itself suffers in comparison to the antagonists that come to mind when approaching a book like this; Moby Dick, Jaws, or the Lions in The Ghost and the Darkness. These animal villains are larger than life, they terrify us but win our respect, and the protagonists are elevated by defeating them (or just trying). Vaillant is limited by the constraints of real life - of the events that actually happened, but without wanting to give any spoilers, the titular tiger will not inspire the nightmares that Jaws did.
So I'm tempted to give Vaillant a break and say that the events just weren't incredible enough to provide the material for a great read. But then I think again of Millard's description of the protagonist Bell against the antagonist "bullet lodged in Garfield," and how I couldn't wait to read about it, even though I knew full well what happened in advance. So, maybe there was enough material here.
Take it for what it's worth, many of the other reviewers clearly liked it, but for me it fell short of the other books of its type that I'd read recently. I will say that Vaillant was quite good as the narrator of his own book.
The history of the Primorsky Krai and areas in and around the deep east of Russia is to the casual Westerner almost as far off and mysterious as of that of the Incas or ancient civilizations so long ago. I did not expect to be introduced to the culture and problems of that area, and was delighted to learn of Dersu Uzala, Vladimir Arsenyev, and others.
The complications around the poaching preservation and sometimes necessary extermination of the Amur Tiger are expertly told and woven along with the terrible and exciting tale of this particular incident. That this story did not spread widely when it happened is both a mystery and almost expected... as such things go in this part of the world.
100% recommend this.
It was a wonderful, moving story told with heart. You could feel the cold of Russia almost down to your bones when listening and yet also feel the warmth and drive for survival.
The tiger who came alive in John Valiant's words in a way I would never have imagined was possible.
This was a good book, but I was expecting better. The author often jumped between stories so I had trouble following his thoughts and lost myself in time and place (is he talking about Vladivostok in the 1980's, the Chinese border in the 1870's, or the tiger's territory in 1990's, or how it has changed in the first decade of this century?). Some of the characters were hard for me to keep track of (also in time and space). This is why I call it "disconnected." While I do not expect the author to stay in strict chronological order an occasional reminder of what time period/place he is referring to would have been helpful.
I really enjoyed this book, on the level of the main story about the man-eating tiger, and on the other levels, looking at the pitiful life of residents in eastern Russia, and the coming extinction of yet another large mammal that we don't have the collective will to save.
suspenseful account of hunting siberian tigers and beautiful desriptions of Russian far east and its people. Generally interesting accounts of russian history and Taiga region, but sometimes bogs down in the details.
This was a good book but a little long because it would stray off the main topic regularly. These topics were interesting and informative but I was focused on the main story and how that would play out.
The author does a good job of reading the book.
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