Saturday, February 26, 2005

King Solomon's Mines, by H. Rider Haggard

King Solomon’s Mines, by H. Rider Haggard

Periodically I try to take in a classic that I haven’t yet read; King Solomon’s Mines is one of those tales. I’ve been wanting to read it for a while, ever since picking up Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen a few years ago which has Allan Quatermain (the narrator and hero of King Solomon’s Mines) working with a band of fictional characters to foil a plot against Victorian London. I’ve read the novels from which the other heroes (Mr. Hyde, Mina Murray, Captain Nemo, and Hawley Griffin) originate but not this one. I came across it at Barnes & Noble and couldn’t resist!

While a lot of this tale is quite dated (rampant racism and sexism, for instance) the basic story-line is still engaging: a big-game hunter searching for a fabled diamond mine uncovers a lost civilization. Many of the plot twists and characters are what we today would consider stale or stereotypical, but considering (I believe) that this was the first place a lot of these were encountered it becomes clear why this book remains popular after 120 years. It is obvious how many modern adventures owe their existence to this novel; for instance my mental picture of Quatermain was Indiana Jones, complete with the fedora. I enjoyed this story quite a bit and am very glad I picked it up.

First Sentence:
It is a curious thing that at my age—fifty-five last birthday—I should find myself taking up a pen to try and write a history.

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