Saturday, January 12, 2013

A little more cheese, please

A few months ago I wrote about Henry Ridger Haggard, author of People of the Mist and other adventure stories back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. If I remember correctly, I was rather condescending toward the book, even calling it "cheesy." Yeah, well apparently I like a little cheese now and then because I read another. (I gotta have something on my phone to read when I don't have a book in my hand!)

Allan Quatermain is probably Haggard's best known character from two of his books, King Solomon's Mines and Allan Quatermain, although apparently there are over a dozen books featuring him. Quatermain is said to be the inspiration for Indiana Jones and is featured in the works of other authors, such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. In Allan Quatermain it begins when his comfortable life in England is shattered by the death of his son Harry. Seeking one last adventure (he's an old man in this story), he convinces two friends, Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good, to accompany him back to Africa. He's heard rumors of a mysterious white civilization and they head into the interior to find it, fortuitously joined by his old Zulu friend Umslopogas. Along the way they face hostile Maasai warriors and get sucked into an underground river before stumbling upon the Zu-Vendi kingdom high in the mountains.

The Zu-Vendis are highly advanced in art and architecture and ruled by two beautiful sister queens with a paganistic bunch of sun-worshiping priests complicating matters. The book follows a similar pattern to the other and is full of flowery prose such as this interesting but very typical passage:

"Such sights are like visions of the spirit; they throw wide the windows of the chamber of our small selfishness and let in a breath of that air that rushes round the rolling spheres, and for a while illumine our darkness with a far-off gleam of the white light which beats upon the Throne."

And yet, just as cheese makes a pizza taste pretty darn good, Haggard's books are kind of fun to read – in moderation, of course! Too much and you might end up with a cholesterol problem.

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