Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another Guest Review

THE TIGER: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival
By John Valliant
Review by George Pasley

This book is a true account of a tiger killing near the village of Sobolonye in the Russian Far East in December,  1997. As such it is a gripping narrative, describing how the Tiger seems to have stalked and killed a man who had earlier tried to kill the tiger, how the Tiger went on to kill one more man and to terrorize a village, and how authorities tracked down and killed the tiger at risk to their own lives.
But it is more than a true story, and that is the genius of the book. Each of the characters in the story came from somewhere else far away, for reasons other than choice, and stayed because for the most part they had no choice. Instead, they were compelled both to come and to stay for reasons of history, politics and economy. Valliant weaves those reasons into the narrative.
Even more, Valliant gives vivid description to the exceptionally unique ecology of the region known as Primorye, to the evolution of tigers, to the history of interaction between men and predatory beasts (including a vivid and chilling description of baboons hiding in caves by nighttime), the environmental predicaments posed by perestroika, the economic depravity in which the current residents of Primorye live, and finally, efforts to save the Siberian Tiger from extinction.
I found the book holding tight grip on my interest, and loved the way the author helped us to see both the larger environmental, economic and political pictures as well as the intimate picture of a life and death struggle in the winter forest, and yet held the larger picture and the intimate picture in balance.
The Tiger is educational reading and compelling narrative. I would read it again, and read anything else Valliant has written.

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