Monday, January 10, 2011

Africa! Pip-pip!

King Solomon's Mines
H. Rider Haggard

There are so many classic books in the world, one person will never be able to read them all. I'm glad, therefore, that King Solomon's Mines is one that I did read.

This isn't a modern thriller, full of twists and turns and finished in an afternoon. King Solomon's Mines is a solid book, full of the work of a professional wordsmith, and is the foundation of a wonderful reputation and legacy. Haggard inspired generations of writers - Allan Quatermain is said to be one of the ancestors of Indiana Jones, and Haggard's influence can easily be seen in the work of Wilbur Smith.

An Englishman disappears into darkest Africa, and his brother sets up an expedition to track him down. Our hero, Quatermain, remembers sending the missing man a message that might lead to an ancient treasure. The reasoning is simple - find the treasure, and we'll find the prodigal.

Of course, it's never that simple, is it?

Our intrepid Englishmen dance the white man's burden to the tune of Bwana and Sahib all the way into ne plus ultra, fight in a tribal war, find (and lose) pure love, set a rightful king on a throne, and come away with a pocketful of diamonds. All in a days work, when you have an old school tie and a stiff upper lip.

King Solomon's Mines is great fun and a good read. Put away your misconceptions of fusty Victorians and read a gem whose luster will never fade.

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