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In the winter of 1997, a huge tiger is stalking-and devouring-hunters on the edge of an isolated Siberian village. Yuri Trush and his team of tiger inspectors are called to the scene to investigate one incident, and ultimately, to determine the tiger's fate. Nature writer Vaillant (The Golden Spruce) follows Trush's team as they track the tiger on foot through dense forest in the bitter cold while documenting the effects of the tiger crisis on the desperately troubled village. What spirits this adventure narrative from compelling to brilliant is Vaillant's use of the tiger hunt as an allegorical lens through which to understand the cultural, economic, and environmental devastation of post-Communist Russia. Vaillant suggests that the lone tiger's desperate acts are merely symptomatic of the larger crisis facing wild tiger populations-and their human counterparts-in contemporary Russia. VERDICT This energetic hybrid of classic adventure and impassioned sociocultural critique will appeal to Jon Krakauer fans, tiger lovers, and readers interested in contemporary Russian history. It might also attract fans of the film The Ghost and the Darkness, based on J.H. Patterson's The Man-Eaters of Tsavo. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/10.]-Kelsy L. Peterson, Overland Park, KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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The grisly rampage of a man-eating Amur, or Siberian, tiger and the effort to trap it frame this suspenseful and majestically narrated introduction to a world that few people, even Russians, are familiar with. Northeast of China lies Russia's Primorye province, "the meeting place of four distinct bioregions"-taiga, Mongolian steppes, boreal forests, and Korean tropics-and where the last Amur tigers live in an uneasy truce with an equally diminished human population scarred by decades of brutal Soviet politics and postperestroika poverty. Over millennia of shared history, the indigenous inhabitants had worked out a tenuous peace with the Amur, a formidable hunter that can grow to over 500 pounds and up to nine feet long, but the arrival of European settlers, followed by decades of Soviet disregard for the wilds, disrupted that balance and led to the overhunting of tigers for trophies and for their alleged medicinal qualities. Vaillant (The Golden Spruce) 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 went from being worshipped to being poached. Photos. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Set in Russia's Maritime Territory, Vaillant's story concerns a tiger of the endangered Amur subspecies that killed three hunters in 1997. Expanding from the incidents' central facts, Vaillant's narrative explores humans' relationship with predatory animals in general, with the Amur tiger as the specific example. Literary, folkloric, and scientific sources combine into a deeply sensitive depiction of the tiger's adaptation to its forested, mountainous, and wintry environment. As he recounts how Russians such as the hunters in question also attempt to extract a living from the taiga, possibly including illegal poaching of the tiger, Vaillant posits the tiger's thoughts about the competition, inferring its intelligence from a conservation warden's investigation into the cases of the unfortunate hunters, who were felled in ambush-style attacks. Interest in Vaillant's work, which climaxes in the warden's pursuit of the deadly tiger, will partake of humans' instinctual fear of large carnivores, the modern imperative to preserve them from extinction, and readers of Vaillant's The Golden Spruce (2005), a positively reviewed, deep-drilling work, also about the nexus between humans and the natural world.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
At first read, The Tiger is a riveting account of a Siberian tiger that crosses a thin line into hunting humans. But the real story is about the tiger-human relationship, conservation efforts, and the failure of humans to check their own self-destructive consumption and expansion. Writer/journalist Vaillant (The Golden Spruce, 2005) takes the reader across millennia of predator-human interaction by focusing on the individuals who protect and those who poach Siberian tigers in the Russian Far East. It is a compelling, complex story of the collision between indigenous people and their knowledge and a colonial, extractive mentality. In this wild area squeezed between China and the Pacific, humanity is losing an extraordinary habitat through a combination of failed conservation policy and an insatiable demand for resources. This tiger's tale illustrates, in very human terms, the history of the Russian Far East, failed post-USSR policies, and the effects of global economic forces on natural resources. The book's journalistic style lends itself to many disciplines; more detailed works in international or Russian policy, natural resource management, conservation, ethnography, and journalism would be useful supplements to this work. Summing Up: Recommended. Academic and general readers, all levels. D. Ostergren Goshen College