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Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the…

by David Quammen

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7041625,091 (3.9)41
For millennia, lions, tigers, and their man-eating kin have kept our dark, scary forests dark and scary, and their predatory majesty has been the stuff of folklore. But by the year 2150 big predators may only exist on the other side of glass barriers and chain-link fences. Their gradual disappearance is changing the very nature of our existence. We no longer occupy an intermediate position on the food chain; instead we survey it invulnerably from above—so far above that we are in danger of forgetting that we even belong to an ecosystem. Casting his expert eye over the rapidly diminishing areas of wilderness where predators still reign, the award-winning author of The Song of the Dodo examines the fate of lions in India's Gir forest, of saltwater crocodiles in northern Australia, of brown bears in the mountains of Romania, and of Siberian tigers in the Russian Far East. In the poignant and troublesome ferocity of these embattled creatures, we recognize something primeval deep within us, something in danger of vanishing forever.… (more)
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» See also 41 mentions

English (14)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
DNF on account of all the racism. ( )
  Jeeps | Sep 21, 2019 |
Quammen's exploration of predators and our relation to them is a study in history, observation, nature writing, travel, and conservation. His discussions move effortlessly between our contemporary relationships with predators and their habitats on to history, biology, ecology, and even sociology. With an eye toward bringing these creatures as well as their habitats to life for readers, he blends his understanding of science with a flare for travel writing, and the effect is a brilliant discussion of predators. From the back cover: "As he journeys into their habitats and confronts them where they live, Quammen reflects on the enduring significance of these predators to us and imagines a future without them." It seems clear, though, that a future without them is one of the things this book is desperately fighting against.

Whether discussing bears, lions, tigers, or crocodiles, the work here is impressive. It is not an easy read, certainly--there's research packed into every page, and many of the subjects are serious (potentially nightmare-inducing for animal lovers, too, in some cases), but this is a worthwhile and beautifully written book that honors some of Earth's greatest creatures in a way that deserves notice.

Absolutely recommended. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Feb 26, 2019 |
For a start, an excellent bibliography for anyone interested in the subject.

My interest was in Amur tigers but I couldn't help but continue reading about the other alpha predators Quammen chronicles--brown bears, Komodo dragons, lions, great white sharks….

I enjoyed the combination of myth, history and first-person adventure, and found the author's insights and musings very thought-provoking--for example, his idea that perhaps the eradication of these alpha predators is a predictable part of the colonization process (where newcomers to a geography feel the need to exterminate those elements they find fearful).

In short, the book is thoughtful and while some biological details are included, offers a wider scope of information than one usually finds in works on man-eaters. It's not just Jim Corbett-type tales (which I grew up on and still love to read), but Quammen's ruminations on why, for example, Beowulf "hits harder" than other tales--a chapter I wish I had read back in college while reading this Old English poem--that turned this book into a page-turner for me (which frankly I did not expect it to be beyond the chapter on tigers). Well done! ( )
1 vote pbjwelch | Jul 25, 2017 |
I did not find the book to live up to the page 3 declaration “Among the earliest forms of human self-awareness was the awareness of being meat” until the stories of monster-slaying in human stories [pp. 254 et seq.]. The book proves to be a collection of the author’s eclectic travels – interesting, but less philosophic generally than I had anticipated (save for the role of Economics on pp. 166 – 67.
  Mark-S | Jan 18, 2015 |
Possibly a very important book addressing the loss of species; but I found the author's emphasis on his personal saga not at all interesting.
  2wonderY | Dec 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
''In wildness is the preservation of the world,'' Henry David Thoreau famously said, not knowing the half of it. David Quammen's splendid book ''Monster of God'' constitutes an expansion and gloss on Thoreau's prophetic contention, achieved through an artful, focused account of contemporary efforts to secure preservation, in the wild, of some of the most magnificently fearsome creatures on earth -- the large-bodied carnivores, man-eaters (lions, tigers, Carpathian brown bears, giant crocodiles), a group Quammen designates ''alpha predators.'' The stories he presents contain rich detail and vivid anecdotes of adventure, and they provide skillful capsulizations of the politics, economics, cultural history and ecological dynamics bearing on the fate of each of these cornered populations.
 
As the science writer and naturalist David Quammen observes in his absorbing new book, ''Monster of God,'' alpha predators -- among whom he counts lions and tigers and bears, as well as crocodiles, leopards and the Komodo dragon -- have ''played a crucial role in shaping the way we humans construe our place in the natural world.'' They remind us of our limitations and our place in the great chain of being; they are symbols of our vulnerability, our susceptibility to random death and disaster, our primal awareness, in Mr. Quammen's words, ''of being meat.''
 
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For millennia, lions, tigers, and their man-eating kin have kept our dark, scary forests dark and scary, and their predatory majesty has been the stuff of folklore. But by the year 2150 big predators may only exist on the other side of glass barriers and chain-link fences. Their gradual disappearance is changing the very nature of our existence. We no longer occupy an intermediate position on the food chain; instead we survey it invulnerably from above—so far above that we are in danger of forgetting that we even belong to an ecosystem. Casting his expert eye over the rapidly diminishing areas of wilderness where predators still reign, the award-winning author of The Song of the Dodo examines the fate of lions in India's Gir forest, of saltwater crocodiles in northern Australia, of brown bears in the mountains of Romania, and of Siberian tigers in the Russian Far East. In the poignant and troublesome ferocity of these embattled creatures, we recognize something primeval deep within us, something in danger of vanishing forever.

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