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)
I'll begin with the author's reading skills: Pretty damn good. Above average voice and tone...While true that reading your own book at the Audible.com level is generally a poor idea....this proves to be an exception.
Since it's very well written and tells a story that I found fascinating...I have to give four stars...more like 4.3...Some might not like the multiple digressions into Russian history, animal psychology, and lots of other words ending with "ology" but the digressions are the book...otherwise, it's a short magazine article about events that occurred on the border area between Russian and China where the biggest of the big cats dwell...in dwindling numbers...supported by some dedicated Russian "inspectors" and wildlife foundations....endangered by poachers seeking to sell tiger parts to morons in China and elsewhere that revere tiger penises and bones as "medicine"...The narrative revolves around the killings by a tiger in 1996 that terrorized the small region...the book is a travel book...history book...adventure book...nature book...and a must read for big cat fans.
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival is one interesting read through which John Vaillant (The Golden Spruce) takes up the story of revenge by a Tiger victimized by a poacher. Along the way reader is taken in by the storyline while being introduced to related economic, political, and conservation issues. Frankly, I have never read anything quite like this story. It is John McPhee with a dark story and twist. It is Yann Martel’s Life of Pi in a nonfiction narrative. Most impressive are the sections in which Vaillant lets the reader into the mind and cognitive nature of the Tiger. I was taken aback several times. In sum, this is a very interesting book. At least pick it up and read a few passages before you make up your mind. Vaillant reads his own book to great advantage.
This book grabs you with a fast paced, exciting first chapter but never really delivers on that promise.
In trying to describe the events of the attack and put them in context the author strays a little too far a little too often to hold the reader. Further, the big question introduced in the first chapter is never answered satisfactorily.
I appreciated his description of post-perestroika Russia, which I was almost completely ignorant of before this book. But the background starts to feel like a history lesson and you keep asking "but what about the tiger?" This is even worse when he goes into the personal histories of the involved hunters and townspeople. I'm certain these people made a tremendous impression on the author, but the details of their lives do not really move the narrative along.
The writing is excellent--having lived "up north" I really was transported by his descriptions and he re-creates the feel of village life quite well. I also enjoyed his narration. It is difficult for an author to read their own book, but he manages to inflect well enough to make you catch puns you might otherwise miss.
With better editing this could have been another "Into Thin Air" but as is it requires some effort to get through.
This book is a little like Cod, or Krakatoa, in that it centers on a single event or subject but spends most (or most) of its time on topic's periphery. I tend to enjoy books written this way. The Tiger is not equal to Cod or Krakatoa (I would rate both five starts) but is still informative and enjoyable.
The reader (author) does a great job. I came away feeling confident in my pronunciation of Vladivostok.
Say something about yourself!
"Did he who made the Lamb make thee? Tyger Tyger burning bright, in the forests of the night..." [Wm. Blake]
Imagine--the largest species of tigers, the Amur, or Siberian tiger: 700 lbs., with a chest girth of 56 inches, 12 feet long from nose to tail, 4 feet high at the shoulder. The best camouflaged animal in the forest, stalking you, unseen--silently on giant paws hiding retractable claws the size of a velociraptor's. The golden eyes are unblinking and the mounth slightly open revealing teeth that are 5" long and over an inch thick at the base; the jaw has the power of 1200 psi; the tongue is covered with small hook-like projections that can lick the paint off a building--or strip meat from a bone. If you are average, you can run about 11 mph--but you are in knee high snow...the tiger can run 50 mp--in the snow. From a crouch, it was thought the tiger could jump 12 feet high, until at a San Francisco zoo an Amur tiger jumped a 12 1/2 ft. fence, escaping it's enclosure; launched from a run, the tiger can cover a distance of up to 30 feet . The roar of the animal is so loud it is in the *sonic realm* and distorts the neurological pattern. Now, imagine that animal has a memory, a temper, and a grudge against you!
Vaillant has painstakingly combined the legends and facts about this amazing and endangered animal and woven them into both the political history of Russia, and the true story of the fateful expedition. The combination is fascinating and kept me absorbed--even though I wanted more tiger. The amount of research that has gone into compiling this book is mind-boggling, and Valliant has constructed a flawless platform for his closing statements.
..."the side effect of our ravenous success...we are in charge of this tiger's fate--an extraordinary power for one species to wield over another...what will be the results?"
The dwindling Amur are not the stars of this book--it is Valliant's research and presentation...necessary to protect such majestic animals, and guarantee there will always be the Amur tiger.
Tigers, Siberia, hunting man eating tigers in Siberia. I would never have considered this book had it not been recommended by a good friend. Lucky for me, I had the day off today or I'd have been up all night. A tiger kills a man in Siberia in a way that strongly suggests she chose her prey and stalked him for some time. The men who hunt her try to understand why. Do tigers hold a grudge? Is this all about retribution? If so, for what? It reads like a great mystery/thriller with enough history and psychology (or us and the tigers) thrown in to make it one of my favorite reads of the year.
What an interesting book. The author weaves the story of Eastern Russia, China in all its splendor, geographic, cultural, political in this story of tigers, people and the boreal jungle. This book is very well written and tells congruent stories interwoven in the fabric of the area south of Vladivostok. Take your time with the book. This could easily be assigned reading in a literature course. A combination of Moby Dick, The Guns of August and A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. A pleasure through and through.
The tiger is almost a bit player in this book that ranges from anthropology to cold war politics to conservation. All those topics are interesting in their own right but do not always work juxtaposed together. This is also one more example why, as a rule, authors should not read their own books. The reading in not bad, but neither is it great. I would have enjoyed it more at half the length and more on point.
The author wraps the main story in a helix-like net of fascinating facts about animals, geography, politics and so much more. His writing is dazzling and the narration excellent.
Not all authors should read their books out loud, but John Vaillant is not one of these. His narration, including representing his characters' mannerisms is spot on. I was not expecting as gripping a story, and certainly not the finely strung and explosive climax. This is a book for all ages and one all should read. It will make a tiger supporter out of all of us!
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