Review of The Tiger: A True Story of Vengance and Survival by John Vaillant
This is a book about a tiger in the Russia Primorye region that attacked and killed a Russian hunter. The story isn’t just about this one incident, but covers the reasons behind this first killing, subsequent killings, and the hunt for the tiger before it could do more damage. The book is a best seller thanks to a big marketing push by the publisher. I didn’t find the book to have enough drama as the publicity seemed to indicate.
If you were to come across the publicity machine that pushed this book onto the nonfiction best seller list, you would think that this was a Tiger meets Jaws story. What you get instead is a very thorough history of the Amur Tiger interspersed with the story of one particular tiger that appears to have targeted and tracked not one but three human victims.
There is just way too much background information in this book and too little drama for my tastes. When the background information takes up more than 50% of the story, you lose the reader in my mind. And while I did find the parts of the book related to the pursuit of the tiger to be compelling, they were too spread out. A page turner this is not.
That being said, that doesn’t mean that the book is without merit. You do learn a lot about this amazing creature, the environment where this story takes place, and the people who inhabit the story.
I read the book on my Kindle. I know for a fact that I would have given this book a higher rating had the book contained images and maps. Whether or not the printed version contained these, I don’t know. But the omission in the Kindle version was a bad move. How can you tell a story like this and not show a picture of the tiger or a map of the region where the story takes place?
Of the many facts the author provides, there was one particular fact that caught my attention. The author claims that there are appoximately 450 wild Amur Tigers left in this region, but there are over 2,000 Amur Tigers in captivity just in the state of Texas. That is an amazing statistic. I don’t know if the St. Louis Zoo has one, but if they do, I plan on making a visit to catch a glimpse of one, especially since the publisher decided to omit all images from the e-book. Just think of what they could have done with an enhanced e-book version. Video and images of the people involved in the story. It’s all there.