Ralph Melton (ralphmelton) wrote,
Ralph Melton

King Solomon's Mines

(Louie is still on my lap; he's been here for almost an hour. This is rare; usually he's gone within 15 minutes.)

On our Cook Forest trip, I read H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines. This is a bit of Victorian adventure fiction that introduced the character of Allan Quatermain (who showed up in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which is what sparked me to read this).

It is certainly a ripping yarn, full of adventure and mayhem. (I noted that even though Quatermain is a crack shot, he is not very effective at all in hand-to-hand combat. It's a nice balance.)

It has many elements that I find trite now--I'm not sure whether they were trite at the time. It includes a cave escape that I found reminiscent of the (previously-published) Tom Sawyer, and it includes the old eclipse trick that I first encountered in A Connecticutt Yankee in King Arthur's Court. (I think it would be amusing to read a story in which an explorer gets captured by an ancient tribe just before a convenient eclipse and claims, "Fear me! I will blot out the sun on cue!" At which point, the Mayans who've captured him reply, "Yeah, we have a detailed and precise scheme of astronomical prediction too. Prepare the heart-cutting knives!")

I found myself noticing the racism in the book; it had a sort of forthright unashamed Victorian racism that I found curiously refreshing. I also noticed that it wasn't the simple anti-black racism that I'm used to--Quatermain distinguished between characteristics of different tribes in a way that I found reminiscent of the anti-Indian racism of the American fiction (particularly Westerns). The reasons for that parallel are obvious enough in retrospect, of course.

All in all, an entertaining book. I would certainly read it again, particularly because it was a very fast read.

(Louie has finally vacated my lap. Now I can put on pants and go to work.)
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