King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard
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Date Added: 2001-01-31
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By Jerome Lawsen on September 22, 2007
What struck me most about this book was how small a portion of it actually deals with the mines themselves! The journey there makes up most of the story, but it's an enjoyable one, thankfully.
At the outset we are introduced to Mr. Allan Quatermain, a veteran big-game hunter in his mid-fifties whose wife has died and whose only son is studying medicine. He is approached By Sir Henry Curtis (a wealthy gentleman) and Captain John Good (officer of the Royal Navy) to undertake a journey in search of the legendary diamond mines of King Solomon in search of Curtis' lost brother. He agrees despite the dangers because he could use the money and knows He's been fortunate to survive as long as he has in his line of work. After acquiring supplies and servants for the journey, the group sets off across the vast desert separating them from the mountains which are said to be the gateway to the mines. Once they have crossed these mountains, they find themselves in a land ruled by the Kukuanas, a great race of african warriors who stand between them and the object of their quest.
Having read books by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and hearing that Haggard's work was an inspiration to him, I expected the styles to be quite similar, and there definitely are similarities. Like Burroughs' works, this is an old-fashioned adventure story with lost civilizations, great treasures, and plenty of action. To be fair, though, there are a number of differences, such as a more personal writing style, characters that don't seem as indestructable, and more details about practical considerations like supplies and weapons necessary for the journey.
Certain elements I particularly enjoyed, such as the presentation of the story as a memoir of Mr. Quatermain's, and his notes to the reader. Also, I found the character's honesty and humility refreshing in a story like this, and identified more with him as a result. There were also a few instances of unexpected humor (mostly at the expense of Captain Good) that really caught me off guard, and had me chuckling for a while. (On a side note, though I've mentioned that the main character is a bit more down-to-earth than some protagonists in the adventure genre, Sir Henry Curtis emerges as an almost superhuman character by the end, and I have to wonder if he wasn't an inspiration to writers like Burroughs.)
In all, I would definitely recommend this book to fans of adventure stories. It starts a little slow, but if you don't mind following along on a journey, you'll have some fun along the way.