Thursday, January 5, 2012
King Solomon's Mines
King Solomon's Mines, by H. Rider Haggard
It's the first book for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Challenge! I gather that Allan Quartermain, the narrator of this story, is the leader of the League. King Solomon's Mines was the first book about Allan Quartermain, but it was so popular that Haggard wrote another 15 or so stories about him. I've only ever read one Haggard book, and it wasn't a Quartermain story.
Quartermain is an expert hunter living in South Africa, and he's approached by a couple of men who want to search for a lost brother. It so happens that Quartermain knows that the brother went searching for King Solomon's Mines, and he is also the sole possessor of a 300-year-old map to the mines. So off they trek, across veldt and desert and mountain, until they end up finding a lost civilization. Their noble bearer Umbopa turns out to be the lost rightful king, so he gets the support of several generals and they all depose the evil usurper Twala, bringing justice to the people of Kukuana. And then the intrepid explorers find the mines, but the super-evil witch Gagool has plans for them!
It's all very exciting and rip-roaring, and not as entirely horrifically racist as it could be (which is not to say that you'll never be taken aback, but it could have been a whole lot worse), and the writing style is pretty good for an adventure novel that was dashed off in six weeks. Indiana Jones and other serial adventures owe much to Haggard, so it will be pretty familiar if you read it--just keep in mind that this is one of the originals that inspired all the imitations.