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The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

John Vaillant
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 24 2010
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. To their horrified astonishment it emerges that the attacks are not random: the tiger is engaged in a vendetta. Injured and starving, it must be found before it strikes again, and the story becomes a battle for survival between the two main characters: Yuri Trush, the lead tracker, and the tiger itself.

As John Vaillant vividly recreates the extraordinary events of that winter, he also gives us an unforgettable portrait of a spectacularly beautiful region where plants and animals exist that are found nowhere else on earth, and where the once great Siberian Tiger - the largest of its species, which can weigh over 600 lbs at more than 10 feet long - ranges daily over vast territories of forest and mountain, its numbers diminished to a fraction of what they once were. We meet the native tribes who for centuries have worshipped and lived alongside tigers - even sharing their kills with them - in a natural balance. We witness the first arrival of settlers, soldiers and hunters in the tiger's territory in the 19th century and 20th century, many fleeing Stalinism. And we come to know the Russians of today - such as the poacher Vladimir Markov - who, crushed by poverty, have turned to poaching for the corrupt, high-paying Chinese markets. 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 once fit seamlessly into the tiger's ecosystem.

Above all, we come to understand the endangered Siberian tiger, a highly intelligent super-predator, and the grave threat it faces as logging and poaching reduce its habitat and numbers - and force it to turn at bay.

Beautifully written and deeply informative, The Tiger is a gripping tale of man and nature in collision, that leads inexorably to a final showdown in a clearing deep in the Siberian forest.

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Product Description

Quill & Quire

John Vaillant is a literary shaman. The mixture of fact, conjecture, and superstition he concocted for 2005’s The Golden Spruce was pure magic and earned him the Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-fiction. That same magic pervades the Vancouver author’s new book. Like the previous work, The Tiger involves a mystical encounter between man and the natural world. Set in southeastern Siberia, the story pits a group of men against an astoundingly vengeful, cunning carnivore.

The Tiger reads like a chilling detective novel constantly flirting with the supernatural. The action unfolds over a few days in December 1997 but could just as easily be a spooky folk tale told around a campfire.

The remains of experienced outdoorsman and hunter Vladimir Markov are found near his shack in the Siberian wilderness. It is evident he has been eaten by a tiger. But tigers tend to kill people only when provoked: what had Markov done to enrage the beast? And why is the tiger continuing to attack other humans in the area? Officers from a state wildlife organization investigate the mystery, trying to track down the animal and calm the fears of superstitious villagers. To do so, they use both modern science and ancient folklore.

The story of the hunt for the murderous tiger is frequently interrupted by page after page of background on Siberia, its declining animal population, and the unwritten laws of the forest. This flood of information is interesting, but detracts from the flow of an otherwise spellbinding narrative. As well, a very preachy epilogue seems redundant. We know by this point that the Siberian tiger population should be safeguarded and don’t need this message hammered into our heads any further.

Despite its flaws, The Tiger is a feast of impressive research, cinematic prose, and chilling mysticism that will enthrall both hunters and tree-huggers. The shaman has worked his magic once again.


A Globe and Mail Best Book

“Remarkable. . . . A book that manages to be at once exciting, memorable — and perfectly, impeccably right. . . . Recounts with power and excitement the true story of a titanic confrontation. . . . [Vaillant] has told a tale of astonishing power and vigour.”
— Simon Winchester in The Globe and Mail  

“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.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A savage banquet. . . . Riveting.” 
— Annie Proulx in The Guardian 

“A hair-raising tale. . . . Vaillant’s portrayal of the tiger as a creature capable of revenge is both terrifying and fascinating. . . . It is ultimately Vaillant’s superbly crafted story of a tiger and two men that keeps us glued to the page, from the introduction right through to the thrilling denouement.”
— The Gazette
“A compelling tragedy. . . . [Vaillant] introduces the reader to a rich cast of real-life characters and provides elegant insights into our relationship with nature.”
— Calgary Herald
“Riveting story. . . Vaillant’s book teaches a lesson that humankind desperately needs to remember: When you murder a tiger, you not only kill a strong and beautiful beast, you extinguish a passionate soul.”
— The Washington Post
“A truly extraordinary read: dark, thrilling and utterly compelling, which conveys the terrible might of nature like no other book I’ve come across.”
— The Bookseller (UK)

"The Tiger is the sort of book I very much like and rarely find. . . . This is a book not only for adventure buffs, but for all of us interested in wildlife habitat preservation."
— Annie Proulx

"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. Obsessively well-researched and artfully written, The Tiger takes us on a journey to the raw edge of civilization, to a world of vengeful cats and venal men, a world that, in Vaillant's brilliant telling, is simultaneously haunting and enchanting."
— Hampton Sides, author of Ghost Soldiers

"Magnificent, surely the best chronicle ever published of the wild Amur tigers in Russia's Far East. . . . To call this book a page-turner is an understatement. It's riveting."
— Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs

"This book must be read by everybody who is interested in the conservation of wildlife. It takes you to the Russian wilderness to meet face-to-face with the Siberian tiger."
— Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation and Animals Make Us Human

"The Tiger offers a richly textured, compelling story of Nature and Man at odds - and at risk - in Russia's Far East. Grounded in meticulous research and informed by extensive field work, the narrative graphically conveys the fragility of life in the unforgiving taiga, where a single misstep can turn hunter into quarry."
— John J. Stephan, author of The Russian Far East: A History

"Absolutely superb…"
— George Schaller, Wildlife Conservation Society senior conservationist; NBA winner The Serengeti Lion

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
By Suhail Zubaid AHMAD TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Although the story is about a man eating Siberian, or more appropriately, Amur tiger in the far east region of Russia, it is actually about creating awareness about this beautiful, but endangered species of cat.

The author keeps the true story intense, but departs from the main story a number of times for developing characters involved in it and in the process explains in detail the history, geography, economy, ecology, ethnicities and culture, predators and prey in the region, and of course the relationship between men and the beast. In fact, the authors goes into further details and educates the readers on different political eras of Russia, Sino-Soviet relations of the past and Sino-Russian relations as of now, animal behaviour, even predator ' prey relationships studied in Africa, anthropology, palaeontology, etc. and he does all of this so very beautifully never losing track of the original story of the man eating tiger. It is amazing to note how learned the author and how well researched this book is. The author brings the knowledge out from diversified subjects as they apply to this confrontation between men and tiger.

The book has many tragic events described graphically, but in the end it leaves hope in that the awareness is growing all over the world and that Amur Tigers may survive living in the wild.

I grew up reading very lively and graphic stories of man eating tigers of India written by Jim Corbett and many local Indian hunters. I remember many of those stories and am still able to recall hunters describing the man eating tiger's behaviour. This book either endorsed those viewpoints or expanded my knowledge on tiger behaviour especially after it becomes a man eater.

When I received my book from Amazon.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another reason to love Canada Oct. 31 2010
Although this book is called "Tiger" and is "kinda" about a rogue tiger hunting down me it home about the ongoing tragic life of people in other countries, like Russsia where this story is centered. I think the story of this tiger is a metaphor for the life of some ordinary Russians since Peristroka. I thank John for doing a brilliant job in researching this book and giving us a glimpse into the life of ordinary Russians who live far from the glamour and glitter of Moscow and all the political nonsense that that entails. Great read, I feel very sorry for the depth of despair. Having a democracy has not led to a life that we enjoy in Canada. I would not be suprised if another authoritarian government takes over in Russia just so the people can get a chance at some kind of peaceful, happy life without hunger. And yes, "Leave the tigers alone China!"...."All that talk of tiger parts making you virile is nonsense!"..."It is the rats' testicles that make the difference!".(Readers help me spread the rumour save a rhino or black bear as well!)
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Predation Oct. 26 2010
"The Tiger" is a wonderful piece of non-fiction which reads like a best-selling thriller novel. The writing is clear and concise. A theme winds through the book, raising tension by fear and awe in an exotic locale. John Vaillant tells us the story one Great Tiger while examining the places of tiger and man in the universe. With superior writing skill, Vaillant tells of the ancient relationship of human-tiger predation, thoroughly describing the hunter on either side of the equation and showing us how each behaves in one of Earth's last vast primitive areas. The supporting science and history are made pertinent and interesting by Vaillant's skill and by the omnipresent shadow of sudden death in his story. Well done, Sir!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting Jan. 19 2012
Not exactly a cozy read. It's a mental journey into a primitive world that has faded from most of our collective imaginations, that speaks of the dogged survival of species, our own included. It is so haunting that I feel as if I have permanently left a part of myself treading quietly through a snow-filled forest with my gun muttering, "If I leave her alone, she will leave me alone." "She" is the pronoun commonly used by the locals to describe the tigers in general. Above all in my reading matter, I want to be intrigued, but I so rarely find that quality. This book intrigued me from beginning to end with such a massive backdrop of information about tigers, Russian history, the amazing geographical area, mythology, man's origins as a hunter (or more commonly a scavenger?) that you have plenty of context surrounding the violent incidents at the heart of the book. The end was a climactic nail-biter and I felt as if I was with those guys every step of the way. My mental boots still have the snow on them.

It's more of an "experience" than merely a book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
You don't have to be an environmentalist, an animal lover or a historian, although any of these may enjoy this book, but it's superbly written and a suspenseful mystery as well as great armchair travel.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Enthralling Jan. 10 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I loved this book and thank John Vaillant for writing it. I loved the historical Russian perspective also because Russia has always fascinated me. The descriptive events made me feel like I was there, traipsing in the middle of the forest, and I could actually feel the hot breath of the tiger at one point. Even though I was instilled with fear of the Tiger I did not lose my respect and appreciation of its beauty and its necessity here on earth. I will read this book "again" some day.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars great book
It was a great education about what might be going on between the ears the of tiger. I have a new found respect for them.
Published 7 months ago by randy
5.0 out of 5 stars What is happening to the tiger population
This is a well written tale about the hard life of one particular tiger who is out for revenge. It is set in the far Eastern territory of Russia where the modern world has not... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Kathryn Clout
5.0 out of 5 stars Catch this Tiger, by the .....tale!
This is an incredible story! Well written,thrilling,and ultimately informative about a relatively unknown part of the world. It is not a light fluffy read. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Barclay West
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Bought after reading the prologue online. Read the Golden Spruce and was hooked on the author, his ability to recreate history by gathering the facts is what I most admire. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Marmot
4.0 out of 5 stars The Tiger
This book amazed me and I felt drawn into the rigors of the landscape and the amazing mind of the tiger. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a non-fiction book. Read more
Published 18 months ago by
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely book!
Siberian tiger's living area is my homeland, and I've heard this story, or may be not same years ago. The writer present a very touching true life story. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Yenny
5.0 out of 5 stars good
what i got was good it was a gift and it was good and it was a gift and it came at time.
Published 19 months ago by good
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Amazing story, well written. In addition to a story about the Siberian Tiger, gives a wonderful description of the nature of the Taiga area of Russia, and the politics that harm... Read more
Published 20 months ago by SM
1.0 out of 5 stars Best non-fiction? I don't think so.
I managed to plow through this book, but just barely. If I wanted to study tigers in this much depth, I would buy a textbook. Oh - maybe I did. Yawn.
Published on May 12 2012 by S. Mackay
5.0 out of 5 stars people and tigers you'll never forget
Vaillant combines a hair-raising account of hunting a man-eating tiger with a whole universe of surrounding context -- on the harsh realities of modern Russia, the primordial paths... Read more
Published on March 13 2012 by Brian Griffith
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