The Song of the Dodo) describes the fascinating past, tenuous present and bleak future "/>

MONSTER OF GOD: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind

David Quammen, Author . Norton $25.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-393-05140-7

With equal parts lucid travel narrative and scholarly rumination, Quammen (The Song of the Dodo) describes the fascinating past, tenuous present and bleak future of four supremely adapted predators who are finding themselves increasingly out of place in the modern world. The animals—Indian lions, Australian crocodiles, Russian brown bears and Siberian tigers—share more in common than alpha roles in their respective environments and dwindling prospects for maintaining them; they are, as the book pointedly notes, man-eaters, animals that can and do feed on human flesh. Quammen admits that the term may seem antiquated, but, he writes, "there's just no precise and gender-neutral alternative that says the same thing with the same degree of terse, atavistic punch." He looks at the animals both up close and from an intellectual distance, examining them in their threatened enclaves in the wild and pondering what these killers have meant to us in our religion and art from the pages of the Bible and Beowulf to Norse sagas and African poetry. His writing is sharp and vital, whether depicting his guide's chance childhood encounter with a lion cub or the heat of a rollicking crocodile hunt in a soupy river. Equally resonant are his arguments for why these particular animals excite such fear and fascination in us, and how we will suffer in terms practical and profound if they are eliminated completely from their habitats and confined to zoos and human memory. The crisp reportorial immediacy and sobering analysis make for a book that is as powerful and frightening as the animals it chronicles. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 06/23/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
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