I read this book in one evening, having picked it up just to look at the first few pages and see if I wanted to read it next. Apparently the answer waI read this book in one evening, having picked it up just to look at the first few pages and see if I wanted to read it next. Apparently the answer was yes. The writing is very plain and straightforward, making this an extremely fast read.
There are, yes, a few headdesk-worthy incidents here. Jackson is clueless about the local culture (particularly on the first expedition) and has little patience with people who aren't as knowledgeable or enthusiastic as she is. A surprising amount of the text consists of her sometimes clumsy attempts to keep order among her guides, students, and others who drop by the camp. Frustrations and personality conflicts abound, and it frequently seems as if everyone's on the brink of throwing down their tools and going home.
This is, surprisingly, almost as gripping as the snake-catching parts, if only because it's the part where the author is most out of her element. It's as much a story about trying to manage a group of people with disparate personalities in stressful conditions as it is a story about collecting reptiles in the rainforest.
Most of all, and the reason I'm giving this book four stars, is that Jackson conveys both the frustrations and joys of the expeditions in rich and gritty detail. Even absurd situations, like the author being mobbed by termites (of which she's terrified), or trying to find a place to stay while hauling around a decaying cobra, are rendered real and immediate here.
Though I might be the ideal reader for this book (a young, female American biologist who dreams of studying in the tropics), you don't need to know a thing about snakes to appreciate this book. But you might find yourself wanting to learn more about them after you're through reading it....more