I finished When the World Shook by H. Rider Haggard. Haggard fans will find familiar themes. In fact, it’s safe to say that Haggard has broken no ground. He’s’ just rearranged the pieces.
The conscience of Allan Quatermain can be found split between the main character and first-person narrator, Humphrey Arbuthnot, and Bickley. Bickley, a doctor, shares the sort of skepticism in the face of concrete experience that often marked Quatermain.
His other traveling companion, Bastin, is by no means Hans. There is no faithful servant Hans in this one. Bastin is a single-minded Bible-believing preacher. Bastin and Bickley are on opposite ends of every argument with Arbuthnot acting as a fulcrum. Somehow their disagreements draw them together rather than apart.
I won’t give away the plot. But you’ll see familiar themes: Love across time that does not die. Mysticism and supernatural powers. Dealing with superstitious and primitive natives. Bickley and Bastin may be the better fleshed-out characters. Even though the story is told from a first-person point of view by Arbuthnot, it can’t be said that you know all that much about him. The same was true to a large extent regarding Allan Quatermain.
This turns into somewhat a grand and sometimes boring contemplation about the purpose of man and what is his destiny or purpose, particularly in relationship to what he expects after death, if anything. Still, there are plenty of H. Rider Haggard passages that are bits of interesting philosophy interspersed, which is typical of him, such as the following, written in 1919:
Moreover, think not that you Westerners have done with wars. I tell you that they are but begun and that the sword shall eat you up, and what the sword spares class shall snatch from class in the struggle for supremacy and ease.
The very end of the book finishes well. But the plot point involved of Oro to set upon the earth another great flood is really kind of stupid. Yva, the love interest, is like most women in Haggard novels: wonderfully shallow and idealized. Her love is perfect. Her devotion perfect. And Arbuthnot, who otherwise does not show enough of himself to judge just what kind of a character he is, is the instantly-faithful worshipper of idealized love.
Still, you could spend $12.00 for any book with multiple 5-stars reviews on Amazon and do much, much worse. This one is available for free. And I think I got more than I paid for. It was a pleasant enough read.