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On board a ship bound for Natal, adventurer Allan Quatermain meets Sir Henry Curtis and Captain John Good. His new friends have set out to find Sir Henry's younger brother, who vanished while seeking King Solomon's legendary diamond mines in the African interior. By strange chance, Quatermain has a map to the mines, drawn in blood, and agrees to join the others on their perilous journey.
The travellers face many dangers on their quest - the baking desert heat, the hostile lost tribe they discover and the evil 'wise woman' who holds the secret of the diamond mines. King Solomon's Mines is an exciting adventure that has gripped generations.
It is the first English story set in Africa and is considered to be the origin of the Lost World literary genre that inspired others such as Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, Rudyard Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King and HP Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness.
Haggard wrote the novel as a result of a five-shilling wager with his brother to see whether he could write a novel half as good as Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island (1883). The novel ended up becoming the best seller of 1885.
Toby Stephens is an award winning actor who has an extensive array of credits over stage, film, television and audiobooks. He narrated Ian Fleming's Bond, From Russia with Love, along with Jeffery Deaver's Carte Blanche: A James Bond Novel. Throughout his stage appearances he has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company appearing in a number of their productions; Theatre Royal Haymarket, The Almeida, The Donmar Warehouse and The Old Vic.
Toby Stephens film credits include the James Bond film, Die Another Day where he plays the villain Gustav Graves, All Things To All Men, Believe, The Journey and the Oscar-nominated film 13 Hours. He is well known for his role of Captain Flint in the Starz series Black Sails, other notable television credits include, And Then There Were None, the role of Edward Fairfax Rochester in a BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre, Walking The Dead, Robin Hood and Wired. In 2018 he will appear as John Robinson in the Netflix remake of the 1965 TV Series, Lost In Space.
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Dated but still influential
Toby Stephens' reading. I tried reading this book in my teens (in the 1980s) but ground to a halt through boredom. I tried again in 2013 but was suffering from depression and couldn't finish any book. I nearly gave up on the audio last week, but persisted, thanks to Stephens' enthusiasm, diversity of voices for the characters, and the fact that it does get interesting again about halfway through.
Haggard's respect for other cultures. Don't get me wrong, he is a product of his time, and there are some "let's laugh at the gullible [black people]" moments. By way of example, the hoary old chestnut of the convenient eclipse gets a look in here (forgivable as it has been used this way in real life). Let's hope a few black astronomers get to laugh at Haggard for thinking the darkness lasts a full hour, or for thinking that there will be moonlight on the night after a total solar eclipse. The book also repeats an unquestioned maxim that black and white couples cannot marry.
The exploration of the actual mines. Anyone who has played Tomb Raider is going to feel at home! But it's more the journey than particular scenes.
There are a number of scenes which were probably much better received in 1885 than in 2015, notably the half-shaven Good scene (which was apparently blatant plagiarism).
No. As I say, I had to force myself to continue. A fairly early scene, in which our heroes massacre a herd of elephants, is not great for character identification.
If you're interested in the Lost World genre, it's good to get this one under your belt, as it was the first.
- Dr Caterpillar
An African adventure