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Monster of God


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About the Author

David Quammen is the author of The Song of the Dodo, among other books. He has been honored with the John Burroughs Medal for nature writing, an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an award in the art of the essay from PEN, and (three times) the National Magazine Award. Quammen is also a contributing writer for National Geographic. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.


Acclaimed natural history writer Quammen (The Song of the Dodo) documents the delicate relationship that has existed between Homo sapiens and those few animal species that have actively sought out and eaten humans. Like other creatures, these animals (e.g., big cats, bears, sharks, Komodo dragons, crocodiles, and giant snakes) have been woven into many of humankind's spiritual, mythological, and cultural systems. Starting with biblical times and proceeding into the future, the provocative text takes us on a journey through history that demonstrates how inextricably we are linked to the creatures whose environment we share. Humans have lost much by driving man-eaters to near-extinction where their only hope is life in zoos. By defeating these top-of-the-food-chain competitors, have we thereby defeated ourselves? Quammen would likely answer, "Yes." Rich with personal stories that clarify humanity's true place in the universe, this book will leave the reader eager for more. Fortunately, an extensive bibliography is included. This has all the makings of a science book of the year. Highly recommended.-Edell Schaefer, Brookfield P.L., WI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"Erudite, witty, and utterly fascinating...sets a new standard in nature writing." -- T. Coraghessan Boyle "He sees both sides of the equation, which environmentalists still tend to frame in terms of good animals versus evil people...Insatiably curious, level-headed and amazingly erudite." -- Washington Post Book World

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.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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