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King Solomon's Mines by H. Rider Haggard
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Apr 08, 11

Read in January, 2011

One of the works that helped inspire Indiana Jones, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and lord knows what all else, King Solomon's Mines may not be a staggering work of fiction, but it nonetheless shaped a lot of literature (and films!) in the decades to come.

With that in mind I embarked on Allan Quatermain's journey to the titular mines, although they feature primarily at the end of the journey.

In fact, all together I'd have to say the experience was a bit episodic: first there's the almost-deadly journey through the desert, the almost-deadly entanglements with the natives, the almost-deadly experience in the mines(I don't think anything I've said here will spoil the book for anyone, but I won't elaborate further). For me that made this a book I read in chunks over a couple of weeks, rather than the kind of novel I devour as hard and fast as I can (see also The Hunger Games, Storm Front and the other Dresden Files books, etc).

And that's perfectly fine! The novel is a great adventure and a lot of fun, and even if it's not Faulkner or James Joyce or whatever, it's not entirely mindless pulp, either. Quatermain is at once a lover of Africa and even of Africans but at other moments shows his entirely period-appropriate sense of white superiority in an inconsistent mash that nonetheless feels very human-- as do all of the rest of the characters, except perhaps Gagool.

Excellent read. I'd pick up another Quatermain novel next, if I didn't have a stack of other items on my to-do list!
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