King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard

Allan Quatermain, an adventurer of some notoriety, is approached by Sir Henry Curtis, who proposes a mission to rescue the latter’s brother, lost on an expedition to find King Solomon’s diamond mines. Together with a third man, Captain Good, they begin their journey across Africa. Along the way they pick up a brave Zulu called Umbopa, who accompanies them on the final stage of the quest – across a perilous desert from which no one has ever returned. On on the other side they encounter the land of the Kukuanas, led by evil king Twala. The people of this hidden land regard the strange visitors as “white men from the stars.” Twala’s actions soon put the adventurers right in the middle of a bloody war.

I found this novel difficult to read. The content of the adventure wasn’t very exciting by today’s standards, and some of the sections were long and drawn out – in particular the Kukuanaland war and a pointless early chapter about an elephant hunt. (I couldn’t help questioning the morality of the hero of the story, as he gunned down a herd of elephants without conscience, for no other reason than to profit from their ivory tusks. Different times, I guess.) Still, it’s hard to argue with a novel that’s been turned into a couple of films, and which is probably the chief inspiration behind the Indiana Jones films.

There is one brief moment of humour about halfway through the book that made me laugh as hard as I’ve ever laughed at written words (a rare thing!), where Good tries a few tricks to prove that he’s “from the stars”; I won’t spoil them for you. I had hoped that this comical trend would continue for the remainer of the story, but sadly it was the exception rather than the rule.

I always hate to speak ill of a classic, but I can only tell it like I see it. The story was too simple and it failed to hold my attention. Hence, it took me about half a year to read it through. There are better adventures out there to invest time in.