Although it was still too dark to see well, Joe absentmindedly thrust his right hand into the sack to extract the specimen and have a look. Immediately, he winced with pain and yanked out his hand. A tiny black-and-white banded snake, less than ten inches long, was dangling limply from his middle finger, its fangs still sunk into his flesh. In the fall of 2001, deep in the jungle of Burma, a team of scientists is searching for rare snakes. They are led by Dr. Joe Slowinski, at forty already one of the most brilliant biologists of our time. It is the most ambitious scientific expedition ever mounted into this remote region, venturing into the foothills of the Himalayas. The bold undertaking is brought to a dramatic halt by the bite of the many-banded krait, the deadliest serpent in Asia. In the moment he pulled his hand from the specimen bag and saw the krait, Joe knew that his life was in grave and imminent peril. Thus began one of the most remarkable wilderness rescue attempts of modern times, as Joe's teammates kept him alive for thirty hours by mouth-to-mouth respiration, waiting for a rescue that never came. A daredevil obsessed with venomous snakes since his youth, Slowinski was a modern-day adventurer who rose quickly to the top of his field, discovering many previously unidentified snake species in his brief yet exhilarating career. The Snake Charmer is at once brilliant biography and exotic travel literature, blended with an accessible introduction to the bizarre, fascinating-and sometimes controversial-world of snake science. The narrative transports the reader into primeval wilderness, from the Everglades to Peru to Burma, in search of rattlesnakes and boa constrictors, kraits and cobras. Joe Slowinski's career was fast and exciting, his tragic final expedition a pulse-pounding struggle between man and nature. In The Snake Charmer, renowned journalist and author Jamie James captures the life and death of this charismatic, endlessly fascinating man. Exhaustively researched in interviews with Slowinski's colleagues and family, and the author's own trek into the wilds of Burma, this is narrative nonfiction in the tradition of Into the Wild and The Perfect Storm.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
“No snake kills with more ruthless efficiency than the many-banded krait, which dwells in the jungles of India and Southeast Asia.” How can you not love a book that starts out like this?! The Snake Charmer appears on the surface to be a biography of a “herper”, or snake guy, but it's much more than that. It's a travelogue of both far away places and local fossil hunting grounds, it's a treatise on the academic world of scientists, it's a terrifying study of venomous snakes worldwide. It's an adventure story following the exploits of Joe Slowinski, one of the most brilliant biologists of his time—and the first academic herpetologist ever to die of snakebite in the field. This book contains fascinating information about spitting cobras, flying snakes, pythons, the deadly Australian Inland taipan, coral snakes, copperheads, and the many-banded krait, which is the most toxic land snake found outside of Australia. And it contains the record of Joe's slow death as the neurotoxin affects his ability to move, breathe, or speak—as his colleagues perform round the clock CPR on him while they try to get a helicoptor to save him. Even though you know from the beginning that Joe is killed by the snake, the writing is riveting and you hope against hope that he is saved... I recommend for anyone who likes science, snakes, or true adventure books!
This is awonderful memoir of sorts plus afactual account of snakes all in one. Loved the concise writing and learned alot.
First off I'm not sure what made me pick up this book, I'm NOT a fan of snakes. But it always facinates me how far someone will go in pursuit of something that is their passion. Also the age old man vs nature scenerio is always interesting. Joe Slowinski was a snake and science lover from a very early age and he devoted his unfortunate short life to that subject. Even in his darkest hour he was relaying information to the team about what was happening not for glory but for the sake of discovery and knowledge so that if he didn't survive at least science would gain something from it. A sad but interesting story. Very informative and well written. A good read.