Quatermain: The New Adventures by Aaron Smith and Alan J. Porter. Book review

QuatermainQuatermain: The New Adventures by Aaron Smith and Alan J. Porter,

Airship 27, p/b, £10.89 / Kindle, £3.31 / pdf, $3.00, LINK

Reviewed by David Brzeski

Let me say right from the start that this book was never going to get an easy ride from me. In the first place, I’m a huge H. Rider Haggard fan and to make matters worse, I have recently embarked on a rereading of the original Allan Quatermain books.

Neither author, perhaps wisely, tell their stories from Quatermain’s point of view, as did Haggard. instead they both chose to invent a character of their own for this purpose, through whose eyes we see Allan Quatermain.

In ‘Golden Ivory’, Alan J. Porter introduces us to Daniel, a Canadian riverboat man, working a river taxi service in Africa. He comes into possession of a pouch full of odd artifacts, which include the tip of a very strange ivory elephant tusk. In his efforts to find someone he can trust to help him solve the mystery of this tusk of golden ivory, he falls in with Allan Quatermain and his compatriots.

For the most part, Porter captures the feel of the period quite well. I wasn’t too sure about the scene where Quatermain uses a whip, in an apparent nod to a certain Professor Jones, but the good far outweighed the bad in this entertaining tale. There were a few ends left loose, which at the time of writing, I don’t know whether, or not will be resolved in a future story by Mr Porter. I liked the story quite a lot, albeit in places it seemed more influenced by old jungle adventure films than by the work of Rider Haggard.

In his afterword, Porter admits to having a desire to have Quatermain meet with a certain other African jungle-based character, but the dates wouldn’t allow it. Nevertheless, there is a brief cameo by a feral white man, and he couldn’t resist linking himself, by way of his surname, to certain other members of the Porter clan.

I really liked the opening of Aaron Smith’s story. ‘Temple of Lost Souls’ opens in 1940, when his protagonist, Everett Blaine, is telling his young grandson of the time he went to Africa and met Allan Quatermain. He sets the tale up neatly, as a sort of morality piece, to demonstrate that the school bully’s idea of what makes a man doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny.

Aaron Smith admits, in his afterword, that he doesn’t know Allan Quatermain nearly as well as he knows Sherlock Holmes—the other period character whose mythos he’s contributed to. His version certainly isn’t terrible though, and I have to emphasise the fact that I read this book immediately after having read a few of Haggard’s originals. In fact, he captures the feel of this classic character of Victorian British fiction better than most modern American writers—and certainly better than any of the various film adaptations of Quatermain’s adventures.

Everett Blaine is in Africa to take part in a safari, in the hope of impressing the father of the woman he loves. He’s struck down by a fever as soon as he arrives, and so misses the hunt. Instead he offers to accompany Allan Quatermain on a mission to find out what became of nine female missionaries, who, against all advice and common sense, went into the jungle to spread the word of the Lord to the natives. Personally, I thought Smith went a little overboard with Quatermain’s sexist opinions here, but that’s a minor point. Inevitably, Quatermain and his companions encounter an ancient and strange lost city, which is ruled by even stranger beings. I’ll stop here, for fear of revealing too many plot details.

It’s a fun book, and a very promising start to a possible new series. I look forward to more adventures of Macumazahn, and dare I hope to see some lost tales of the mighty Zulu warrior, Umslopogaas at some point?