Saturday, January 3, 2009

Book Review: The Man Who Would be King and Other Stories by Rudyard Kipling

The Man Who Would be King, by Rudyard Kipling, is a short tale of two rogues who decide to head into a legendary country, "Kafiristan" and seduce the indigenous population into accepting them as Kings. The story is very well told and conjures up a vivid picture of the hostility of the lands entered by "Peachy" Carnehan and Daniel Dravot and the characters they meet along the way.

The Man Who Would be King contains some intriguing references to the Masonic order, and indeed it is the local people's familiarity with the rituals of this sect that give the two main characters a foot in their palatial door, but which also ultimately seals their dreadful fate. This is an excellent short story which was made into a superb movie starring Michael Caine and Sean Connery.

The great strength of this story is its "boys own adventure" appeal whereby the two protagonists adventure into unknown lands with nothing but what they can carry, proceeding to garner their own army of tribesmen, bring British military discipline to unruly brigands and place themselves into the positions of power and wealth that they dreamed of. It is only when greed overcomes them and Daniel Dravot begins to believe he has god-like qualities that things begin to go wrong for the pair.

Unfortunately, the "other stories" don't really compare very well with the title story of this book, in fact the reader would be excused for wondering why The Man Who Would be King was not developed into a much longer novel, surely it was not to create space for these often banal "other stories"?

Many of these other stories focus upon the lives of British subjects in Victorian India, and particularly upon the abundance of affairs and their sad outcomes. However, the similarity in tone and dullness of their meaning make them rather dreadful reading and one would be recommended to leave this book alone after reading the title story.

I would highly recommend The Man Who Would be King to readers but I would equally recommend not bothering with the boring "other stories". I would equally recommend watching the movie of the same title which perhaps exceeds the quality of the original story.

Score: 8.5/10 for The Man Who Would be King, 5/10 for the book overall.

1 comment:

Wildan said...

visiting,. nice review, visit mine ,.
want a link exchange???

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