The fish at the centre of this book is the wild Asian arowana, dragon fish - the world's most expensive fish. Like most things, its value increases as it becomes rarer and harder to locate. Bizarrely, we find out later in the book that it became 'rare' completely by mistake, the fish having been put onto an endangered list by accident, the list never checked before approval, and a non-endangered fish becomes an endangered fish. So now we have the situation,as one reviewer put it of 'a modern paradox - the mass produced endangered species'.
But this book is full of such odd goings on as Voigt, a journalist specialising in science and culture, finds herself falling into the rabbit hole of fish collecting. It is hard for me to see how an intelligent non-fish person could succumb, and she even admits that her arowana search becomes an obsession. She interrupts her search to get married, then days later is back half way round the world fish hunting. She travels across the US and back again, to Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar, South America, always dangling on the thin edge of safe travel, sometimes downright dangerous in her search for this elusive fish, treasured as a both a status symbol and a bearer of good luck. People are murdered for this fish, there is a thriving smuggling industry, there are back room deals. She is not the only one looking for the fish in the wild - other journalists and photographers are all hot on each other's trails to be the first to report the existence of this fish in its natural state.
As well as being an intrepid traveller and going to places she may never before have considered, and may never go back to again, she meets the most fascinating collection of people. I learnt a new word - fish collectors are called ichthyologists for whom aquarium fish are their sole reason for getting out of bed each day. She also meets breeders, scientists, conservationists, and gives us more knowledge and information about aquarium fish than we could ever hope to need. And somehow manages to make the whole book sound more like a travel story than a science story.
But it is endlessly fascinating, slightly crazy and eccentric, sobering in her discussion of the human impact on something as mundane as wild fish and their habitats, even the rationale behind collecting and showing aquarium fish. And do fish have more than a 3 second memory. I really really liked this, so much to learn, such vivid writing. There is an audio version of this book which apparently is amazing. Could be tempted.