Saturday, April 7, 2012

Adventures in cheese

A friend of mine once wrote "Not sure what I'd do if I didn't have a book in my hand," and in case you couldn't tell, I'm the same way. With the Kindle app on my phone it makes it a little easier than carrying a physical book around, and best of all there are TONS of free books online - if you don't mind reading old "classics." Recently, while browsing on Amazon, I noticed that a lot of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs are listed as "popular downloads," particularly the John Carter of Mars series (because of the recent movie, I'm sure), and even his Tarzan series is enjoying renewed popularity. I read a couple of the Mars books when I was a teenager (#'s 2 and 4, I think - in addition to a few other cheesy sci-fi books) but didn't really get into them.

But I recently read a similar kind of book from another writer of that earlier era - Henry Rider Haggard. Haggard is considered to have started the "Lost World" literary genre of writing with his books King Solomon's Mines and Allan Quatermain (who was the inspiration for Indiana Jones). I read The People of the Mist about Leonard Outram who goes to Africa to seek his fortune after his family lost their English estate. He and his Zulu sidekick, Otter (who's a dwarf), end up saving a beautiful woman named Juanna Rodd, and with several of her servants they all set off on a quest to find the mysterious "People of the Mist." Supposedly, this lost people has a hoard of jewels which they offer to their giant crocodile-god, and a handful of these would allow Leonard to buy back his family estate, redeem the family name, and marry his childhood sweetheart, Jane Beach. But the ruggedly handsome Leonard hasn't heard from Jane these many years and doesn't even know if she's married another or if she's still alive. Meanwhile, there's also a budding relationship with the beautiful but independent-minded Juanna...

Yeah - I know - it's kind of a cheesy story-line, but it was also surprisingly fun to read. I was reminded the whole time I read it of an 80s movie called Romancing the Stone - which was also kinda cheesy - but a fun adventure tale. Not the kind of thing you take too seriously, but fun in an escapist kind of way. And the book was free.

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