………………………………………………..Photo credit: Michael Lionstar
“This elegant work of narrative non-fiction has it all—beauty, intrigue, a primeval locale, fully realized characters, and a conflict that speaks to the state of our world. . . . Brilliant . . . Haunting and enchanting.”—Hampton Sides, Ghost Soldiers, Hellhound on His Trail, Blood and Thunder
“Magnificent . . . To call [it] a page-turner is an understatement. It’s riveting.”—Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, The Hidden Life of Dogs and Tribe of The Tiger
“The Tiger is the sort of book I very much like and rarely find. . . . A book not only for adventure buffs, but for all of us interested in wildlife habitat preservation.”—Annie Proulx
“A richly textured, compelling story of Nature and Man at odds—and at risk. . . . John Vaillant does as much as any mortal hand or eye to frame the ‘fearful symmetry’ that burns in Blake’s ‘forests of the night.’”—John J. Stephan, The Russian Far East
“This book must be read by everybody who is interested in the conservation of wildlife.”—Temple Grandin, Animals Make Us Human
“Absolutely superb . . . ”—George Schaller, Wildlife Conservation Society vice president; National Book Award winner The Serengeti Lion
This is a chilling, almost unbelievable story. A poacher in a remote forest in Russia’s Far East sets out to snare one of the world’s most extraordinary animals—the Siberian tiger, which can grow to ten feet long and weigh more than six hundred pounds and ranges daily over vast territories of forest and mountain. Instead, the poacher is savagely killed and an entire village is terrorized as the tiger takes its revenge.
The Tiger is a genuine page-turner, pitting men against a dangerous predator in a forbidding wintry landscape. But it’s also so much more than that. John Vaillant [pdf] gives us a vivid and haunting portrait of a remote region, as well as a fascinating study of predators and prey. He recounts the arrival of Russian settlers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We meet the native tribes who for centuries have worshiped and lived alongside tigers—even sharing their kills with them—and the impoverished Russians of today whose poaching has upset this natural balance. We learn about surprising theories of how humans and tigers may have evolved to coexist, how we may have developed as scavengers rather than hunters, and how our prehistoric ancestors may have fit seamlessly into their ecosystems. Above all, we learn about these incredible tigers and the threats they face from loggers and poachers.
John Vaillant weaves all of this together with a remarkable touch, and he has conjured a world that is both terrifying and magical. No wonder Brad Pitt’s company optioned The Tiger (with Darren Aronofsky directing and Guillermo Arriaga, of Babel fame, writing). I hope you’re as entranced and excited by it as I am.
[Siberian photo credit: John Goodrich]
For more on the state of the tiger in today’s world, including a beautiful slideshow, visit The New York Times.
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