Monday, November 05, 2012

Review: The Book of Deadly Animals

It's been a long time since I engaged in the pastime of just picking up a random non-fiction book solely because it sounded interesting, then absolutely devouring it over the next few days. It's somehow appropriate, then, that the book I chose to break my metaphorical famine for non-fiction was 'The Book of Deadly Animals', by Gordon Grice. Because when you talk about things that devour, this book has the full spectrum.

Make no mistake--at some point, this book will push your phobic buttons. It covers the entire animal kingdom, from cats and dogs (domestic cats? Not so bad. Domestic dogs? You will be surprised) to spiders, wasps and centipedes, to parasitic worms, to sharks and poisonous snakes. Somewhere in there, you will find your personal squick and you will read that section giving your profound thanks to Insert Deity Here that you do not live in Insert Location There.

And yet, it is fascinating. Every page of it is fascinating. The predation habits of hyenas, the reactions of tigers to provocation, the descriptions of the sheer and terrifying power of a Nile crocodile...all of it is amazing. And it's more than mere morbid curiosity--the book has a clear point, demonstrating that human beings are not the special and privileged stewards of the earth, occasionally murdered by sinister and aberrant monsters. We are a part of nature. Sometimes we are a threat to animals. Sometimes we are prey. And sometimes we are just in the wrong place at the wrong time when an animal is in a bad mood. Seeing things through that lens gives you an important perspective, and one worth having.

And also you get to read about whales going after whaling ships. Which is just awesome.

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