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She: A History of Adventure Kindle Edition
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|Kindle, May 20, 2015||
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I've long been fascinated by the immortal character but it's rare that a writer is able to create a character that truly feels immortal. DC comics has Vandal Savage and Alan Moore used not only Ayesha but also also Orlando. Each of these characters was born a normal human but by some mechanism attained immortality. Ayesha became immortal more than 2000 years prior. As brilliant a writer as Alan Moore is I never felt like he did any more than scratch the surface of immortality. Haggard, by contrast, really delves into the logistics of being immortal in a very thought provoking way. In a telling confession Ayesha admits that occasionally she is annoyed by her own presence and it never occurred to me that this is probably exactly what would happen after thousands of years trapped in your own thoughts.
'She' is a highly intelligent, well thought out story with a lot of unexpected twists. Ayesha, herself, is an incredibly powerful character and I mean that with the respect to the effect she'll have on the reader. One could believe that someone who has lived for more than two millennium would have acquired some powerful tricks and such is the case with Ayesha. Haggard doesn't dwell on her abilities but near the end of the book when she makes plans to leave her seclusion and rule the world the reader will believe it's no idle boast. Victorian age characters tend to be very flat and archetypal but Ayesha feels real. Having lived such a long life she has risen above normal ethics and even religion. The main character (Holly) attempts to have a religious discussion with Ayesha and although I suspect Haggard was sympathetic to the religious argument Ayesha ancient wisdom was such that Holly broke off the discussion on the premise that someone was going to lose the argument and it wasn't going to be Ayesha.
I can absolutely understand why 'She' was so popular when it was published. It is one of the best Victorian era books I have ever read. Haggard doesn't have the poetic writing skills of someone like Rudyard Kipling but he can write an incredibly compelling story and Ayesha is a character that is hard to forget. Upon seeing her inhuman beauty the two main characters are forever captivated and essentially trapped in a prison of desire. It's not even some base lust, it is love and 'She' is not such a terrible person. Her behavior could be viewed is unethical but one could certainly imagine that a person who has seen generation after generation pass before her would have less concern over individual lives since to her they simply pass like flames. If you've read Alan Moore's version of Ayesha who takes sadistic pleasure in breaking the necks of pigeons know that Haggard's she is nothing like that. Even if she has not the same concern for death she in no way desires to kill for the sake of killing. Even I found myself captivated by 'She' and sympathized with Leo and Holly's irresistible infatuation.
This is the first of four books featuring Ayesha which is surprising given the stories ending. I've already started the second book and intend to read them all. This is a much better book than I expected and I can imagine myself reading it again someday.
Just for the record, I had recently viewed the movie "She" starring Ursula Andress (which prompted me to re-read the original book). Ursula the Film Sex Goddess (talk about two-dimensional!) couldn't hold a candle to the remarkable woman portrayed in H. Rider Haggard's book. It's a darn good tale that still holds up after all these years.
I absolutely adore this novel. There is something very compelling about the two thousand year old Queen, Ayesha. I particularly like aspects of the tale, where her vast antiquity is gradually revealed to the reader, such as when one of the characters, the Ape man, spontaneously erupts into Latin, with Ayesha replying in Latin. At another time, she asks is the 'wise one' is still in charge of the Israelites, and he mentions King Herod to her and she says: 'Oh I do not know of this Herod!' implying her antiquity is far greater. Another time she is surprised that the temple had been 'rebuilt' and then overthrown. This was all latest information to her.
The story has the structure of some of the great adventure stories of the early 20th century, reminding me of the 'Lost World' genre: total immersion into the politics of a bizarre, distant kingdom, after a long and brutal struggle to even get there! The reader is really ingratiated towards Ayesha because he/she can feel that yes... even in barbaric Africa, is a Queen, very much like themselves, holding similar values, though she is brutal and strange.
If you like strong women, you will love Ayesha! I cannot wait to read the two sequels to this story, which Rider seems to have written, later in life. If you would like to know where the idea for much of Indiana Jones comes from, this is the book, particularly the ending of the 'Last Crusade'.
Charles Kos, Public speaker and Author of: "In Search of the Origin of Pyramids and the Lost Gods of Giza"