King Solomons Mines
'King Solomon's Mines'' is a classic adventure tale of treasure hunt by Henry Rider Haggard. It is told in a straight-forward and simple narration by the elephant hunter, Quatermain. It is the story of three men, Quatermain, Henry Curtis, and John Good who together embark on an adventurous journey in quest of the legendary treasure of King Solomon. Captivating!
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If you were raised on the movie version, prepare yourself for a shock: Allan Quatermain is no quipping, whipping, dynamite-tossing Indiana Jones knock-off. He is, instead, a fop, a bit of a coward, and not especially given to action or daring-do.
The rough plot is the same: a group of British adventurers set off in search of a legendary diamond mine. They cross a desert, encounter hostile natives, and engage in the kind of causal racism one only finds in adventure novels of this vintage.
Is it exciting? Meh. A lot of the dangers faced are overcome by asinine coincidences. At one point, starving and dying of thirst after a desert journey, our heroes find a patch of melons growing on the side of a mountain. Seriously.
The tone also takes some getting used to. Our 'hero' is a reluctant adventurer and a coward, by his own admission. Quatermain's first-person narration make it clear from the beginning that he was dragged kicking and screaming into both embarking on and recording the tale. He's a hunter, having killed animals his whole life. He's reluctant to drop the "n" word but still a pretty racist guy. He's very much a product of his times, hard to relate to from our perspective.
Still, this is THE classic adventure tale, the inspiration for countless serials, novels, and films. All griping aside it's a breezy read, worth reading for the sake of history alone. If you have trouble getting into Allan's head, it helps to read the story as if it were an Indiana Jones movie retold from the comic relief's point of view.