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Monday, March 26, 2012

The Only Thing That's Changed is the Englishmen

Just posted a review of  The Tragedy of the Korosko at Amazon.  Reprinted here:

Light stuff but worth reading. I'm happy I spent my time with this (I read the free Kindle version) rather than anything I might have picked up from the paperback bestseller rack at the grocery store. I don't suffer from Western self-loathing, nor do I have any trouble recognizing the good side of Victoria's British Empire, so I enjoyed the action, the dialog, and the satisfying finish you expect in this sort of thing. This is a standard-model Victorian adventure melodrama. That's not a bad thing, especially in the hands of a writer like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who knew his trade.

The plot won't surprise you: a group of European tourists (inexplicably) take a boat trip up the Nile and are taken prisoner by Muslim raiders of the Khalifa's army in the Sudan. Will the jihadis kill them if they refuse to convert to Islam? Will the jihadis kill them regardless? What will happen to the women? Can a rescue force reach them before they get to Khartoum and will it even be strong enough if it does catch up? The tension just keeps building! Lots of fun.

Doyle doesn't specify the year the action takes place but he first published the story in serialized form for the Strand Magazine in 1897. The British were still fighting the Sudan Campaign so this would have seemed like an adventure `ripped from the headlines'. The characters are the usual. There's the retired British colonel, the parson, the lawyer, the Irish couple, a spinster from Boston travelling with her beautiful young niece, etc. There's even a Frenchman around to bitch about British imperialism. The Frenchman sounds like your average Western academic of today, and probably the only difference between the jihadis in this story and the modern ones in the Sudan is that today's jihadis have automatic rifles. It's a shame the one thing that's changed is that today they don't seem to make Englishmen like they used to.

If Sherlock Holmes is the only thing you've read by Doyle, spend a couple hours with this.

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