H. Rider Haggard was no Dickens, but he can still stir our blood and ignite wanderlust in our jaded 21st-century souls. Whether it's a beautiful queen in the middle of Africa, a race descended from Solomon, or an old white dude who fights as easily with a battle-axe as with a breech-loading rifle, his stories make even grown-ups want to explore and fight wicked tribesmen.
Late-19th century Africa was a mystery to Westerners. Pulp writers exploited this like Europeans exploited Africans, inventing tribal atrocities, telling Marco Polo-esque lies, and botching geography. Haggard's stories are comparatively restrained—while he imagined lost European races in the interior, his depictions of real Africans were far less jingoistic.
Instead, he relied on his literary talents to sell books. And on Allan Quatermain, who could shoot accurately from hundreds of yards, track through jungle or across savannah, wrestle and fight, and resist the powers of She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed long before Tarzan or Indiana Jones. He wasn't superhuman, but he possessed the best European virtues and adopted the best African ones.
Don't read too much into these stories, though. They're adventure tales, plain and simple. Allan Quatermain fights, explores, hunts, and discovers with the doggedness of an Englishman and the savvy of a wilderness-dweller. Blood, witchcraft and lost civilizations are commonplace, and the best way to encounter them is head-on, with an unlimited hunger for adventure.
Since this is three books in one, t's rather confusing to link to Gutenberg and Librivox above, so here are simple links you can use for each book independently:
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.