Book Review: Allan Quatermain

Here’s my review on Allan Quatermain by H. Rider Haggard. Finished it on Thursday. Such a terrible book! The Summary. The world-famous hunter, Allan Quatermain, takes one last trip into the unknown, in search of the unknown. An adventure story with very few good ideas and lots of silly settings. In its defense, its pretty old and the genre (presumably) wasn’t well developed yet.

The Good. The first half. The first half of the book (a la Anne of Green Gables) is actually worth reading. If you pretend that arriving at the Frowning City is the end of the book, then you will have read a fun adventure novel and feel that this actually may have helped propel the genre to another level.

Exploiting the geographic ignorance of  the late 19th century presents some fun opportunities. I have a vague idea of where they end up and know that what’s he’s describing is completely unfactual- but suspending it helps alot. It makes we wonder what parts of earth can still be exploited this way in fiction.

The Bad. The second half. Haggard had some vague idea of what he was shooting for but didn’t have the talent to pull it off. I started reading this using Raiders of the Lost Ark as a measuring stick and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as a reference point for Hunter Quatermain- that didn’t work out so well. In the book, Hunter Quatermain ended up being kind of a lame duck hero who probably should have stayed at home and saved a lot of people a lot of trouble. His restless spirit just complicated things from the get-go.

I could complain about the one-dimensional characters (many) or the two-dimensional characters (few) or the complete lack of any believable characters. But you get the idea.

The Inevitable. Haggard wrote this in about 1887 and it shows in the way he presents race and gender in dominator hierarchies- obviously painfully prejudiced all the way. Its tough to read from that standpoint. All the white men are gallant (except the frenchman), the white women are silly and the Others are ignorant and backwards- thank goodness for English gentlemen who can put the world right and introduce some civility to the world! Kind of a weird perspective now.

The Bonus. The re-write/corrections at the end by Curtis is pretty funny. I didn’t see that coming and am surprised its not used more often in fiction.

Pairs Well With: Jules Verne. If you read Verne and ignore this, you’ll be fine.

The Bottom Line.  Run away! Never read this book!

The Caveat. None. Tho i do wonder if the other 15 books in the series are this bad.


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