Three Adventure Novels:
King Solomon's Mines,
Allan Quartermain
by H. Rider Haggard
Review by Matthew Urick

These novels helped to define the quintessential plotline of the lost race novels.

A small party starts off for unexplored territories to find something (She: a lost heritage, King Solomon's Mines: a lost brother, Allan Quartermain: adventure). After barely surviving through extremem hardship and the deaths of their native servants (think red shirts in Star Trek), the three Englishmen and one noble savage discover a lost civilization that has survived in all its glory thanks to the placement of unclimbable mountains, dense jungles, and other fortuitousnatural wonders. Their coming upsets the societal order. War breaks out. War that consists of on huge decisive battle. The intrepid explorers then discover this civilization contains wealth that could bankrupt the world's economy, but can only make it back to tell the tale with enough of it to live comfortably.

She is the one novel of the three that differs the most from this formula. It is part of the reason that it is best of the three. The arrival of Leo Vincey does not cause a war (despite his conquring lion name). Nobody would dare oppose the (pre-Rrumpole) She-who-must-be-obeyed. In fact, the meeting of Leo Vincey and Ayesha has been foreordained. Just why and what happens when they do meet I won't reveal as I won't spoil a good story for those who haven't read it.

this does not apply to Allan Quartermain, a sequel so formulaic one can't believe Hollywood did did not have a hand in it. It gets especially leaden in its middle third. When our crew first reach Zu-Vendi, they decide as a precaution to show their superiority by potting some hippopotami which turn out to be sacred animals. The powerful chief priest wants them killed instanly, but they survive due to the intervention of the twin queens who favor strangers. They make further enemies of the priests by sharing unknown secrets like glassmaking. And when the fair blonde queen falls in love with the dashing Sir Henry Curtis, add to the list of enemies the most powerful count and the darker brunette-tressed queenwho want to marry her and him respectively. The only change to the stated formula is a different formula ending. The explorers don't return home, instead staying to reisolate the lost civilization to protect it from the evil influence of the outside world.

[Note from Ann Cecil: In his defence - Haggard invented these formulae, and everybody else copied them, over and over.]

This review appeared in Sigma 161, June, 1999.

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