King Solomon’s Mines

By H. Rider Haggard

Rating: 3 stars

The hunter and adventurer Allan Quatermain is engaged by Sir Henry Curtis and his friend Captain Good to travel into unknown parts of Africa in search of the legendary mines of King Solomon – not for the wealth, but to try and find Sir Henry’s missing brother, who was last heard of going in search of them himself. The intrepid trio, together with their native manservant Umbopa must face many dangers before and after they find their destination.

I first encountered Allan Quatermain not through the works of H. Rider Haggard, but those of Alan Moore, via The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and I would probably not given this volume a second glance if I hadn’t recognised the protagonist from Moore’s story.

I’m glad that I did though, as it’s a fair rip roaring adventure. As with so much other literature of the period, especially that set in the Empire, it does need some cognitive filtering though. You’ve got to remember when and by whom it was written: it is very much a book of its time, and its treatment of non-white characters reflects that. In saying that, it’s not as bad as some in that regard, but the almost unconscious assumption that white men are the superior race feels difficult to a 21st century reader.

And I must confess that I laughed out loud when they pulled the convenient eclipse stunt, although to be fair, it wasn’t the worn, laughable trope that it is now when the book was written.

So a fun adventure, but one that needs to be read as a period piece and has all the difficult racial problems of its era.

Book details

ISBN: 9780140350142
Publisher: Puffin Books
Year of publication: 1885

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