Allan Quatermain by H. Rider Haggard
This is the second Quatermain novel by Haggard, though the first I have read. Its predecessor is “King Solomon’s Mines” It is set in deepest darkest Africa, written at a time when Africa has only just being explored. Stanley had only recently found Livingstone (1871). Africa was an unknown continent, a proper setting for fantastic adventures, much like Mars 50 to 100 years latter. However, Haggard displays a knowledge of the people of Africa, the Zulu, and Masai. He spent time as a colonial official in South Africa. The end of the book includes some autobiographical material.
The story is set at the end of Quatermain’s life, and includes both his death and that of his heroic companion, the Zulu chief, Umslopogaas, Quatermain’s other traveling companions are his two friends, Sir Henry Curtis, Captain John Good and the cowardly Alphonse.
Other important characters include: Mr Mackenzie, at whose mission station, the Quatermain party are confronted by a war party of Masai tribesmen, and the joint queens of the fantastic Zu-Vendi people, Nyleptha and Sorais. The other principle antagonist, in addition to the Masai warriors, is the high priest Agon (with one of the queens).
There is a great battle near the climax of the story, a clash of great armies, that has a medieval or even ancient feel to it.
The prolog for the book is set at the funeral of Quatermain’s son which gives an opportunity to state a purpose for the story. It provides an example of what it means to be an Englishman. While today that may seem quaint, the idea of living a life of honor and duty is never out of style.
I suppose that today this would be considered an adventure story, but I consider this to be an early work of science fiction. It is set in what was at the time, a little known place. This is taken as a opportunity to create an incredible world. I enjoyed reading it and intend to read its predecessor, King Solomon’s Mines.
© David B Snyder 2013