For years, I've wanted to either read this book or see the movie based on it. And now that I've read it, I hope to find and watch the movie soon. Because I think this will be one of those cases where I like the movie better.
Not that I didn't enjoy the book, because I did. But I didn't really love it. None of the characters were particularly intriguing to me, other than Umbopa, who wasn't in it much until about two-thirds of the way through the book. I realized, while reading this, that for me to love a character, that character has to have some kind of secret. Either something that I don't know, as a reader, or something that they're keeping from the other characters in the book. And Allan Quatermain, the main character of King Solomon's Mines, has zero secrets. We know how his wife died, we know his whole life story, we know he loves his son, we know how he makes his living -- we even know how he came by the map that they follow to find the treasure. And so I wasn't particularly interested in him. This was a really cool insight for me, and one I'll put to good use when writing my own characters. Make sure not to reveal everything all at once, lest readers be a bit bored.
So anyway, this is about three Englishmen in Africa who go searching for a lost diamond mine that supposedly belonged to King Solomon back in Biblical times. It's got lots of adventure, lots of excitement, a big war, some really tense moments, everything you want in an adventure book. (Well, everything except a character with secrets that I want to be friends with, but that's a me thing, not necessarily a you thing.) It's one of the stories that inspired Raiders of the Lost Ark -- in fact, there's one part of this book that is totally used in Raiders, and I loved that to bits :-) I really want to see the movie version now (it stars Stewart Granger -- yummy!).
Particularly Good Bits:
"We are in for a curious trip, and a mysterious Zulu won't make much difference one way or another." (p. 38)
There they came, "not as single spies, but in battalions," as I think the Old Testament says somewhere. (p. 43) (My note -- that's not from the Old Testament, that's from Hamlet!)
As those who read this history will probably long ago have gathered, I am, to be honest, a bit of a coward, and certainly in no way given to fighting, though, somehow, it has often been my lot to get into unpleasant positions, and to be obliged to shed man's blood. But I have always hated it, and kept my own blood as undiminished in quantity as possible, sometimes by a judicious use of my heels. (p. 124)
If this was a movie, I would rate it: PG-13 for violence.