I did not know who Allan Quatermain was, nor Henry Rider Haggard when I found the kindle version of this book available for free on Amazon.com. I downloaded it primarily because it seemed to be a “classic”, and to be frank I thought the title sounded intriguing. While the story itself was fun, adventurous and clever it wasn’t anything completely out of the ordinary, or nothing that we haven’t seen before. What I liked most about it was the way the story was written. The book was published in 1885 and thus its prose is very different from modern story telling. Allow me to give an example:
At half-past four we also started. It was lonely and desolate work, for with the exception of a few ostriches there was not a single living creature to be seen on all the vast expanse of sandy plain. Evidently it was too dry for game, and with the exception of a deadly-looking cobra or two we saw no reptiles. One insect, however, we found abundant, and that was the common or house fly. There they came, “not as single spies, but in battalions,” as I think the Old Testament says somewhere. He is an extraordinary insect is the house fly. Go where you will you find him, and so it must have been always. I have seen him enclosed in amber, which is, I was told, quite half a million years old, looking exactly like his descendant of to-day, and I have little doubt but that when the last man lies dying on the earth he will be buzzing round—if this event happens to occur in summer—watching for an opportunity to settle on his nose.
Who doesn’t want to read a story with writing like that?!
Despite the language and older prose, King Solomon’s Mines is an easy read. There isn’t difficult language, names or descriptions. Often enough, the descriptions are elaborate, as one could imagine from the above quote, but they aren’t difficult. Often, if I do come across difficult descriptions in books I just glance over them because they don’t add much to the story – I may have done that once or twice during King’s Solomon’s Mines – but overall the descriptions were done in a manner that was easy to read and did add to the story’s environment. If not at least to give a sense of the environment or mindset of the characters.
Upon completion of the novel, I was surprised to find just what I had read. The author, Haggard, wrote this novel in a time span somewhere around six – sixteen weeks and founded a new genre for literature, Lost World. Now, earlier I said this book wasn’t anything out of the ordinary to my mind, but this book literally kicked off a new genre of writing. That is no easy feat and so at its time of publication it was something out of the ordinary, a whole genre the west hadn’t seen before. Amazing. And a very well written book considering it’s time frame and originality.
Not only the above, but I also found that Allan Quatermain is a semi well-known Hero-type figure in a whole slew of books and movies. Indeed, even a more modern movie such as The League of Extraordinary Gentleman Allan Quatermain is played by Sean Connery and is in one of the lead roles. Now, the movie itself was just an enjoyable 2 hours that I probably won’t watch again, but regardless, Allan Quatermain is still alive and well.
I recommend this book. I probably won’t get around to reading the various sequels and prequels that were written about Quartermain due to time constraints and how many other books are out there but I did thoroughly enjoy King Solomon’s Mines and will post a couple more times relating to some of the thoughts and quotes from the book. Look for those in the future.