Gorilla Tactics Book Review

Gorilla Tactics by Greg Cummings – Review

Well written, in the style of narrative nonfiction, Gorilla Tactics (How to Save a Species) starts off with the author’s experience of trying to save Mountain Gorillas (not physically but through awareness) but being caught up in a horrifying war in Rwanda. (Early galley review.)

After all, only a few hundred mountain gorillas remain in these high mountains of Uganda, Rwanda and Congo.

I would like to know more about the town of Kigali in Rwanda, as there was no descriptions, bar the decimation of the town after looting. The same with the Virunga Volcanoes. The writing is otherwise personal, real and interesting.

A gorilla-mapping mission, with Arthur C Clarke and a Space Shuttle of NASA, was supposed to be the plan for the better publicity of the mountain gorilla cause. Alas, what a pity that ugly war in Rwanda had to go and ruin the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund’s plans.

Passion for the crisis is shown in the slang and frustrated internal monologue of the down-hearted Director and campaigner. We are right there with him in the place, in the time. It was 1994. (Five years before I set foot on the African continent). I got a real sense of the gorillas’ personalities as well.

Having a soft spot for East Africa, I could picture the family home, at Nairobi’s edge, near the forest. I appreciate how he feels about the Rift Valley and the panoramic viewpoint. What a magical place, and Greg takes us back in time.

Then we’re off to his early days in Nigeria, with a slice of that culture in the late 1960s compared to Montreal, Canada – a stark contrast of his homeland. Such an adventurous life, which was followed by six other countries and a settling in London, England.

I enjoy a touch of dialogue to give us the real feeling of the time; creating this dialogue in a memoir must be tricky but Greg pulls it off. He certainly noticed the drinks, both when a bartender and when not. I would like to know what is in some of the drinks he mentions.

The famous name of Arthur C Clarke involved directly in his life makes it more interesting for us writers, as does Pink Floyd mentions. The overwhelmingly bad war news in Rwanda (which you might remember) is also revealed from a different point of view. One wonders what good might have happened for the Gorillas if there wasn’t such a parade of militant tactics there.

I’m not rich and famous, and yet I, among thousands of other world travellers, visit game parks in Africa – but I understand the author’s reflection on cultural appropriation of the Out of Africa ‘experience’. I enjoyed talking to the people of Kenya and Tanzania and noticing cultural differences. Cultural differences makes travel interesting and that’s what makes this book interesting too.

This book is quietly honest in its telling, just the right amount of dialogue to description ratio, although some of us might not have the cultural background to fully immerse ourselves. It jumps around a bit, or perhaps that’s my skimming at play – but you will learn a lot.

For lovers of gorillas, wildlife, Pink Floyd, Arthur C Clarke, NASA Space Shuttle, The Congo (the film), and interesting memoirs.

Gorilla Tactics: How to Save a Species – Hardback or eBook.

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