King Solomon's Mines is an action novel. Allan Quatermain and associates don't just have adventures: they shoot, wrestle, stab, and hack their way to the heart of Africa like crazy British adrenaline hounds. Searching for a lost comrade, the group uncovers a lost white race, untold treasure, a beautiful queen, and more carnage than you could shake an elephant gun at.
By all accounts, Haggard's novel is the first adventure story set in Africa, a continent he knew from travel and military service. The lost race Quatermain finds is clearly made up, but who cared? Africa was still the Dark Continent then. And who cares now? this is still one of the most exciting titles of all time, and we read it for the battles and exoticism, not to learn history and geography.
King Solomon's Mines came out 18 years before Joseph Conrad's seminal Heart of Darkness, exploring in less detail themes the great Polish writer would investigate thoroughly in his masterpiece. The idea of the White Man's Burden is central to Haggard's novel, approached from the perspective of native whites rather than foreign Europeans.
At its best, however, this is simply a fast-paced adventure story of epic proportions. Hunting scenes, chases, one-on-one combat with battle axes, fire, chaotic battles—Haggard includes them all, setting precedents that dominated adventure fiction for decades to come. If you need a fun book instead of a great one, look no further; the fact that it's also very good is just a bonus.
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.
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