I finished this book over weekend. It’s more than the title would suggest. Tigers and humans would be more like it, but still not cover the topic covered. If there’s a criticism of this book, its that it’s too ambitious in what it covers.
The real hook is a tiger. A tiger gone rouge, the wilds (and I do mean the wilds) of Russia in 1997. A tiger that collides with humanity, in an increasing violent fashion, that injures man and beast and that seems to exhibit very “human” desire for vengeance.
The cat kills or more obliterates two men in quick succession. In one case in revenge perhaps for the man stealing its kill. Events build to a final bloody confrontation between tiger and conservation officers that normally endeavor to protect these awesome creatures.
The story progresses based on accounts of those involved. The readers is fed quite a bit of speculation about what exactly happened during tiger attacks. That some of the most climatic events are only speculated about is due to all those involved being dead. This supplemented with a lot of story of similar attacks where there were survivors.
A lot of context on the state of Russia in the late 1990’s is provided. This provides more understanding of how the collapse of the Russian economy pushed many especially in the wild east of the country to live off the land. The result was perhaps inevitable poaching of the tigers (tiger body parts are quite valuable), and more confrontation between man and beast across Siberia. Other digressions include the relation of primates, including humans, with big cats over eons of evolution, and tiger conservation efforts.
If there is a criticism of this book, its that it felt like it could have been shorter and focused on the action, the killings and efforts to stop the rogue animals, without so many digressions. This may because the core events, at least that we know in detail are limited, but fascinating, again because the witnesses are dead.
An interview with the author is here.
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