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on 10 June 2017
King Solomon's Mines(1885) is by the English Victorian adventure writer Sir H. Rider Haggard. It tells of a search of an unexplored region of Africa. The group of adventurers is led by Allan Quatermain for the missing brother of one of the party.

Allan Quatermain, an adventurer and white hunter based in Durban, in what is now South Africa, is approached by aristocrat Sir Henry Curtis and his friend Captain Good. They are seeking his help finding Sir Henry's brother. He was last seen travelling north into the unexplored interior on a quest for the fabled King Solomon's Mines. Quatermain has a mysterious map purporting to lead to the mines, but had never taken it seriously. However, he agrees to lead an expedition in return for a share of the treasure, or a stipend for his son if he is killed along the way. He has little hope they will return alive. He reasons that he has already outlived most people in his profession, so dying in this manner at least ensures that his son will be provided for. They also take along a mysterious native, Umbopa. Umbopa seems more regal, handsome and well-spoken than most porters of his class, but who is very anxious to join the party.

Travelling by oxcart, they reach the edge of a desert, but not before a hunt in which a wounded elephant claims the life of a servant. They continue on foot across the desert, almost dying of thirst before finding the oasis shown halfway across on the map. Reaching a mountain range called Suliman Berg, they climb a peak (one of "Sheba's Breasts"). There they enter a cave where they find the frozen corpse of José Silvestre (also spelt Silvestra). This was the 16th-century Portuguese explorer who drew the map in his own blood. That night, a second servant dies from the cold, so they leave his body next to Silvestra's, to "give him a companion". They cross the mountains into a raised valley, lush and green, known as Kukuanaland. The inhabitants have a well-organised army and society and speak an ancient dialect of IsiZulu. Kukuanaland's capital is Loo, the destination of a magnificent road from ancient times. The city is dominated by a central royal kraal.

They soon meet a party of Kukuana warriors who are about to kill them. Captain Good nervously fidgets with his false teeth, making the Kukuanas recoil in fear. Thereafter, to protect themselves, they style themselves "white men from the stars"—sorcerer-gods—and are required to give regular proof of their divinity, considerably straining both their nerves and their ingenuity.

They are brought before King Twala, who rules over his people with ruthless violence. He came to power years before when he murdered his brother, the previous king, and drove his brother's wife and infant son, Ignosi, out into the desert to die. Twala's rule is unchallenged. An evil, impossibly ancient hag named Gagool is his chief advisor. She roots out any potential opposition by ordering regular witch hunts and murdering without trial all those identified as traitors. When she singles out Umbopa for this fate, it takes all Quatermain's skill to save his life.

Gagool, it appears, has already sensed what Umbopa soon after reveals: he is Ignosi, the rightful king of the Kukuanas. A rebellion breaks out, the Englishmen gaining support for Ignosi by taking advantage of their foreknowledge of a lunar eclipse to claim that they will black out the moon as proof of Ignosi's claim. The Englishmen join Ignosi's army in a furious battle. Although outnumbered, the rebels overthrow Twala, and Sir Henry lops off his head in a duel.

The Englishmen also capture Gagool, who reluctantly leads them to King Solomon's Mines. She shows them a treasure room inside a mountain, carved deep within the living rock and full of gold, diamonds, and ivory. She then treacherously sneaks out while they are admiring the hoard and triggers a secret mechanism that closes the mine's vast stone door. Unfortunately for Gagool, a brief scuffle with a beautiful native named Foulata—who had become attached to Good after nursing him through his injuries sustained in the battle—causes her to be crushed under the stone door, though not before fatally stabbing Foulata. Their scant store of food and water rapidly dwindling, the trapped men prepare to die also. After a few despairing days sealed in the dark chamber, they find an escape route, bringing with them a few pocketfuls of diamonds from the immense trove, enough to make them rich.

The Englishmen bid farewell to a sorrowful Ignosi and return to the desert, assuring him that they value his friendship but must return to be with their own people, Ignosi in return promising them that they will be venerated and honoured/honored among his people forever. Taking a different route, they find Sir Henry's brother stranded in an oasis by a broken leg, unable to go forward or back. They return to Durban and eventually to England, wealthy enough to live comfortable lives.</spoiler>

The book has scholarly value for the colonialist attitudes that Haggard expresses. Also for the way that he portrays the relationships between the white and African characters. Haggard portrays some African characters as barbarians, such as Twala and Gagool. But their barbarity has more to do with their roles as antagonists in the story than with their African heritage. He also presents the other side of the coin, showing some black Africans as heroes and heroines (such as Ignosi). He also shows respect for their culture. The book expresses much less prejudice than some of the later books in this genre. Indeed, Quatermain states that many Africans are more worthy of the title of "gentleman" than the Europeans who settle or adventure in the country. Haggard even includes an interracial romance between a Kukuana woman, Foulata, and the white Englishman Captain Good. The narrator tries to discourage the relationship, dreading the uproar that such a marriage would cause back home in England; however, he has no objection to the lady, whom he considers very beautiful and noble. Haggard soon "kills off" Foulata, but has her die in Good's arms.

So, a product of its time but still a rip-roaring tale.
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When Sir Henry Curtis' brother George goes missing in Africa, Sir Henry and his friend, Captain Good, set out to find him. While they are en route to Natal, they meet up with Allan Quatermain, a local elephant hunter and adventurer, who is able to tell them that George had started out on a quest to find the fabled diamond mines of King Solomon. When Sir Henry asks if Quatermain believes in the existence of the mines, Quatermain replies that he had never paid too much heed to the legend until, some time earlier, he came into possession of a rough map showing the way there, written in blood by a man now long dead. Sir Henry begs Quatermain to go with them to seek for the mines, in the hopes of finding his brother there; and, in return for a promise of a share in any treasure they find, Quatermain agrees. While Quatermain gets together supplies and a team of bearers for the journey, he is approached by Umbopa, a native who doesn't look or act like the usual bearer but is very keen to join the expedition. And so they set off to cross the burning desert to seek their fortune in the mountains beyond...

This is a great adventure story - the greatest I've ever read and truly deserving of the term 'classic'. The story is told by Allan Quatermain in the first person. He sees Sir Henry as the hero of the story, but the reader knows that Quatermain himself is the true hero. The grizzled old hunter, with his knowledge of the ways of the natives, with his hunting skills and, above all, with the bravery which he hides beneath a cloak of modesty, is the heart of the book. But Sir Henry is a fine character too, tall, strong, handsome, intelligent - everything an Englishman of the Empire should be. Captain Good is a brave and loyal friend, but with eccentricities aplenty, allowing Rider Haggard to introduce some humour (and the tiniest touch of romance) into the story. And the mysterious Umbopa - aah! He represents all of that part of Africa we don't understand - again courageous and with a strength that becomes vital as the adventurers struggle to survive, but a man who can be frightening and whose loyalty must be earned, not bought - a man with a secret that is only slowly revealed.

The tortured journey across the desert where the only hope for survival rests on finding the waterhole marked on the ancient map; the journey over the mountains where cold and hunger take the travellers to the edge of endurance; the Kingdom of the Kukuanas, ruled over by the cruel King Twala and about to be plunged into a civil war where all must take a side - the pace never lets up as our heroes face danger after thrilling danger from both nature and man. And from woman too - I defy anyone who has read this book to forget the ancient, evil, cackling `wise woman', Gagool of the Kukuanas - the stuff of nightmares and midnight terrors. Or to forget the horrors of the caves...

Written in 1885, King Solomon's Mines was the first English adventure story to be set in Africa, at a time when much of the continent was still `undiscovered'. A small word of warning that obviously some attitudes to race in the book are reflective of the time - however, on the whole, Rider Haggard is respectful and even admiring of the 'natives' and their cultures. I first read this (many times) as a child and teenager and, on re-reading recently, enjoyed it just as much as an adult. If you've never read it, what a treat you have in store...I envy you!
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on 5 May 2012
In a nutshell, this is a proper old-fashioned adventure yarn. It is narrated by the now-iconic Allan Quatermain, an English hunter making his living shooting game in South Africa. He is on a boat returning to his home in Durban when he meets Sir Henry Curtis and his friend, naval officer Captain John Good. Sir Henry is attempting to find his brother, last seen heading out on a suicidal mission across the desert in search of King Solomon's legendary diamond mines. He enlists Quatermain's (rather reluctant) help and the three set out for the mountains, aided by a crudely-drawn map left to Quatermain by the last fool to attempt the journey.

What follows is a real Indiana Jones story that had me completely absorbed from start to finish. First the desert must be navigated, then there are mountains to cross, only for the exhausted trio to find themselves embroiled in a bitter tribal war on the other side. It could have been so dull, but Quatermain's plentiful dry humour and beautiful flights of description proved irresistable. The excitement and suspense is genuinely riveting - there are a couple of deliciously gruesome moments that sent me mentally diving behind my sofa cushion - and when I reached the last page I felt utterly bereft. Having been so completely immersed in the trio's African exploits, I wasn't quite sure what I could read next that could POSSIBLY compare (always the sign of a great book!).

The characters are exquisite creations, each and every one of them. Sir Henry, the great fair Viking with his deep integrity and ferocious strength as a warrior. Captain Good, with his eye glass, impressive swearing abilities (never rendered here, by the way!) and determination to dress like a gentleman despite the harsh conditions. Even foul old Gagool, the ancient and evil Kukuana witch doctress, was so brilliantly drawn that I felt a wave of revulsion every time she graced the page with her presence. The biggest thing I'll take away from the book, the element that will stick with me the most, is the incredible set-piece imagery, some of which wouldn't seem out of place in a Lord of the Rings film. I think certain 'snapshots' from the book are forever imprinted on my memory, they're so unforgettable. The great twin mountain peaks at sunrise. A wounded bull elephant charging through the trees. Key moments from the tribal war. The moment when the trio first enter the Kukuana Place of Death (that was perhaps the most memorable scene of all for me). I mean... wow. I'm actually glad that no decent film adaptation of the book has ever been made, because now I'm not tempted to watch it. It'd take a damn fine movie to match up to the pictures in my mind! Perhaps I should write to Peter Jackson...
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VINE VOICEon 1 July 2013
I grew up on the movie so it was quit a shocker to read the book. As stated in the beginning there are no petticoated women in this book. It is a men's adventure written by a man for men. You can not miss the hand of H. Rider Haggard as he has a unique sense of humor that pops up at the strangest times. He may be a little verbose but every word has a use. And as with written stories this one is much more intricate than the movie adaptations. You will find many assumptions of the time such as any complex construction must have been built by white people and natives on their own may turn savage.

The story is told first person by Allan Quartermain. Nevil is off to make his fortune by finding King Solomon's lost diamond mines. Allan sends him a 300 year old map to help. This is the last anyone heard from Nevil. Turns out that Nevil is really the estranged brother of Henry Curtis. Sir Henry Curtis now wants to make amends and he with his friend Captain John Good, bribe Allan Quartermain to take them across an endless desert and trough impassible mountains to an adventure that will hold you to the very end. Along with them is their self imposed helper Umbopa who carries a secret of his own.

If you get a chance also hear the recording, an added plus is narration by John Richmond; He brings the characters to life and adds to the mystique that this story has been passed down.

If you cannot find a copy of the John Richmond, recording you can use the Kindle 2 text-to speak. It is not as smooth but it is functional.

King Solomon's Mines Starring: Deborah Kerr, Stewart Granger
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on 25 September 2013
I found this an engaging enough read by tackling it just a few pages at a time. It starts well and ends well but the middle lags a bit with the adventurers sucked into the politics of a Zulu-like tribe dominated by a cruel leader. Rider Haggard spent a good deal of time in South Africa and met bona-fide adventurers and natives, so he writes with some veracity. I wanted to find out who Alan Quartermain was and found that he is pleasingly modest with perhaps the real hero of the story being Sir Henry Curtis. The other adventurer is the comical Captain Good who awes the natives with his false teeth, monocle and milky white legs - the unfortunate man is discovered by natives shaving off his beard and he spends most of the adventure unwillingly half-shaved to impress them. Although the natives are portrayed as mostly simple Rider Haggard is unreserved in his admiration for them.
King Solomon's Mines originated the Lost World genre and was the first to use the plot devices of the prediction of a solar eclipse and the tribe's belief that the white men were Gods. Many of the tropes which may now seem awful cliches were originated in this best-selling book. Its influence is undeniable with its success inspiring Edgar Rice Burrough's The Land That Time Forgot, Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (Penguin Classics)and Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King and all the way down to Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Collection [DVD].
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on 13 August 2013
This book is by far one of the best I've read. Allan Quartermaine is the Indiana jones of books! 5 star.
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on 2 July 2013
Last time I read this was at school and it's amazing just how much I remembered, will hang on to this and read it again in the future.
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on 7 April 2016
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