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Men of Men

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Men of Men by Wilbur Smith It was called The Devils's Own: a steep scar in the African earth, around which men toiled with picks, shovels, and dreams of the milky treasures that would become prized, polished diamonds. In this demonic race, native tribesmen became miners. Sometimes they became thieves. And then they became rebels. Zouga Ballantyne, an African-born Englishman, Men of Men by Wilbur Smith It was called The Devils's Own: a steep scar in the African earth, around which men toiled with picks, shovels, and dreams of the milky treasures that would become prized, polished diamonds. In this demonic race, native tribesmen became miners. Sometimes they became thieves. And then they became rebels. Zouga Ballantyne, an African-born Englishman, sees the Devil's Own mine as his ticket to the North: a realm of waterfalls and fertile plains, teeming wildlife, and seeded fields of gold. But what happens in the diamond mines of the fledgling Boer Free State sets the course for Ballantyne and a cast of comrades, enemies, and lovers--and for the continent itself. From the visions of imperialists to the fury between a father and a son, from the lengths a man will go for a woman and a woman for her convictions, a tragic clash of generations and civilizations was shaking 19th-century Africa, where some warriors fought for their gods--and others for the men who came before them...


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Men of Men by Wilbur Smith It was called The Devils's Own: a steep scar in the African earth, around which men toiled with picks, shovels, and dreams of the milky treasures that would become prized, polished diamonds. In this demonic race, native tribesmen became miners. Sometimes they became thieves. And then they became rebels. Zouga Ballantyne, an African-born Englishman, Men of Men by Wilbur Smith It was called The Devils's Own: a steep scar in the African earth, around which men toiled with picks, shovels, and dreams of the milky treasures that would become prized, polished diamonds. In this demonic race, native tribesmen became miners. Sometimes they became thieves. And then they became rebels. Zouga Ballantyne, an African-born Englishman, sees the Devil's Own mine as his ticket to the North: a realm of waterfalls and fertile plains, teeming wildlife, and seeded fields of gold. But what happens in the diamond mines of the fledgling Boer Free State sets the course for Ballantyne and a cast of comrades, enemies, and lovers--and for the continent itself. From the visions of imperialists to the fury between a father and a son, from the lengths a man will go for a woman and a woman for her convictions, a tragic clash of generations and civilizations was shaking 19th-century Africa, where some warriors fought for their gods--and others for the men who came before them...

30 review for Men of Men

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    As the Ballantyne saga continues, Smith chose a new central focus on which the imperial white man seeks to hoard for himself; highly pressurised carbon. no matter the plight of the Africans currently living on the land. Just as the ivory hunt proved to be highly beneficial for European settlers, the mining of diamonds became a lucrative means to make substantial capital. Smith brings Zouga Ballantyne into the thick of the mining operation, alongside his family. As the novel opens, Ralph and Jord As the Ballantyne saga continues, Smith chose a new central focus on which the imperial white man seeks to hoard for himself; highly pressurised carbon. no matter the plight of the Africans currently living on the land. Just as the ivory hunt proved to be highly beneficial for European settlers, the mining of diamonds became a lucrative means to make substantial capital. Smith brings Zouga Ballantyne into the thick of the mining operation, alongside his family. As the novel opens, Ralph and Jordan Ballantyne are in camp with their parents and exploring as any teenage boy is wont to do. When Zouga's wife dies suddenly, it is up to the Ballantyne boys to forge their own way in a world still rife with chaos. As Zouga mines for diamonds, he leads a camp full of locals until Cecil Rhodes arrives on the scene, ready not only to purchase all the diamonds, but to annex the lands and settle them for his own. Using Zouga as an emissary to the African tribes, Rhodes begins the creation of what will eventually be Rhodesia (and then Zimbabwe). Ralph becomes a hardcore worker, mirroring the sentiments of his father and grows up to develop a personality as hard as the diamonds he mines. Jordan, on the other hand, is a more delicate young man, much like his mother, but does find himself involved as Rhodes' personal secretary. When Ralph travels to discover his aunt, Robyn Codrington (nee Ballantyne)'s missionary camp, he falls in love with his cousin, Catherine and they begin a whirlwind romance. Smith uses this encounter to bridge the two original siblings (Robyn and Zouga), as well as the fallout that befalls them when Captain St. John (the slave owning ship captain) returns to engage with Rhodes and his new territorial plans. Both Zouga and Robyn's clans mesh together during the subsequent portions of the novel, which focusses largely on Rhodes use of soldiers and the British South Africa Company to rid the lands of the African tribes by force, read: slaughter them. Smith masterfully weaves this tale alongside the birth of Rhodesia, the white state that will, in decades to come, prove key in the black suppression on the African continent. A powerful second novel in the Ballantyne series not to be missed. Smith continues with his storytelling abilities to depict the colonial nightmare that saw the sub-continent of Africa become the plaything of the British Commonwealth. Plundering its people, wildlife, and now natural resources, Smith shows how the entire area was devastated by those who thought they knew best. In this tale, Smith pulls no punches as he explores the colonial mindset, to rape and pillage those who will not kneel voluntarily, while killing those who seek to protect their tribal lands. Pitting the spear against the bullet and formal military techniques against those of tribal huntsmen, Smith shows how the European (read: British) mindset utilised this superiority to slaughter those in their way, with no comprehension for the traditional ways of life. Rhodesia's creation was made on the backs of the African people, their blood and sweat imbedded in the land while the whites profited immensely. A novel not for the reader who is not prepared to digest horrible depictions, but full of examples of the deplorable way whites treated those with whom they saw as a hindrance. Smith is to be applauded for this book and the series to date, which has handled many of these topics in a historically accurate way. Kudos, Mr. Smith for this powerfully disturbing novel. You have left an ache in me to learn more and to be ashamed of the British Commonwealth at the same time. No wonder things became as volatile in that region, pitting race against race and tradition against colonial profits. Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at: http://pecheyponderings.wordpress.com/

  2. 5 out of 5

    Graham

    The second book in Smith's Ballantyne series, and a follow up to A FALCON FLIES. This book carries on in the first one's wake, taking up the story of Zouga Ballantyne as he tries his luck in the new-fashioned Kimberley Mines under the beady eye of empire-builder Cecil Rhodes. MEN OF MEN is a novel of two halves and the first half is particularly gripping. It's all about the diamond mines, and Smith once again mixes technical detail with human incident to great effect. You never get bogged down in The second book in Smith's Ballantyne series, and a follow up to A FALCON FLIES. This book carries on in the first one's wake, taking up the story of Zouga Ballantyne as he tries his luck in the new-fashioned Kimberley Mines under the beady eye of empire-builder Cecil Rhodes. MEN OF MEN is a novel of two halves and the first half is particularly gripping. It's all about the diamond mines, and Smith once again mixes technical detail with human incident to great effect. You never get bogged down in the minituae of the diamond extracting process, yet by the end of it you feel like you've learnt all that there is to know about it, and it's never less than engaging. The second half of the book is more mixed, and the quality gradually wears off as the story progresses to become a series of strung-together episodes. The characters are rather thinly sketched and feel like pieces being moved around a chessboard. Smith also fails to include any sympathetic characters and the new ones, Ralph in particular, feel repulsive. This is a novel where bad things happen to good people, and there's a lot of violence packed within the pages. Nevertheless it's a quality read, with - as per usual - wonderful descriptions of Africa and the people who made it tick. I look forward to seeing in which direction the third novel, THE ANGELS WEEP, goes.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  4. 4 out of 5

    Barbara ★

    Wilbur Smith's books tend to be based in Africa during the 1800s when England and Englishmen seize control of huge tracks of land and kill or force out the native people. Usually these books involve gold digging and/or diamond mining. This book is no different. The end of the book is very violent and off-putting at times. If the treatment of native Africans during this time period offends you, I suggest that you skip this book. That said, I enjoyed this book immensely as it is a family saga with Wilbur Smith's books tend to be based in Africa during the 1800s when England and Englishmen seize control of huge tracks of land and kill or force out the native people. Usually these books involve gold digging and/or diamond mining. This book is no different. The end of the book is very violent and off-putting at times. If the treatment of native Africans during this time period offends you, I suggest that you skip this book. That said, I enjoyed this book immensely as it is a family saga with very interesting characters with ungodly ambitions. Zouga Ballantyne, an Englishman born in Africa, is mining diamonds in order to get rich enough to move onto his real goal...gold digging. After spending 10 years in the diamond mines, he has given up on his dream and drifted away. His two sons have left their father and travelled in different directions. Ralph, the fighter, has gone north towards the gold fields and Jordan, the effeminite one, stays on with the reigning diamond merchant. The first 220 pages are exciting as hell and then there is a three year shift in time and the action drops off. This is where the men separate. After a 100 pages or so, the pace again picks up and the real aims of the main characters become clear. Remove the black men and be king of the African country.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rishi Prakash

    Absolutely brilliant...Smith has got a thrilling plot here which carried on from his last book "A falcon flies"...there are so many sub plots that it keeps you on the edge after every chapter and everything starts connecting slowly as the book progresses. He has definitely taken the "Ballantyne" family story several notches higher with his second book :) As always,Africa looks so fascinating and mythical through his eyes, no one can match it for sure!!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Andi

    Another good Wilbur Smith book, classic format - however it really lost it's way in the last quarter. Jumped around and quite disjointed, shame really.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Elaine Hargrave

    This book is the fore runner of When Angels Weep. Story of the taking over of the African continent and stripping away the assets. The time of Cecil Rhodes and him building his empire in the name of civilization, with gold and diamond mining and fighting the natives, stealing the cattle and land from under them. Dealing with the miners and the buying and selling of land, mining rights all with a percentage going in to his pocket under a company license, ultimately his. His big dream of Rhodesia This book is the fore runner of When Angels Weep. Story of the taking over of the African continent and stripping away the assets. The time of Cecil Rhodes and him building his empire in the name of civilization, with gold and diamond mining and fighting the natives, stealing the cattle and land from under them. Dealing with the miners and the buying and selling of land, mining rights all with a percentage going in to his pocket under a company license, ultimately his. His big dream of Rhodesia becoming reality.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Tarek Ali

    This is a gripping historical saga, interwoven with real events in Wilbur Smith's beloved South Africa. At times it is hard to tell if he is an apologist for colonization, if he was trying to justify the atrocities of white man on black. Nevertheless the Ballantyne family continues to be a fascinating lynchpin of historical turning points. The story also emphasizes some of the inherent hypocrisy and weaknesses of the devout, and the survival instincts of the wicked. A cautionary tale.

  9. 5 out of 5

    George

    As usual, another Wilbur Smith book that was difficult to put down once started. Plenty of action and romance. Once completed, looking forward to the next Wilbur Smith novel. Have read 30+ of his books and have yet to be disappointed in any of them. If you like action and adventure, Wilbur Smith is the one to read. Highly recommend him.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Berthiaume

    I can't say I enjoyed it as much as the first book in the series. It dragged somewhat. I don't think I'll read the third book. I'll move on to something else.

  11. 4 out of 5

    d harvey

    Another good read Another good book of the ballentine family.. Not as good as the Courtney stories but still a worth while read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    John Hales

    What happened to honor? This book tells the sad tale of one malevolent dirty deed after another. There is certainly a shortage of justice in this book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    D.A. Fellows

    5/5 stars. Well, I wish I could say that the ending of this book is bittersweet, but in truth it is very likely the saddest, most sickening and most infuriating ending that I have ever read. I loved it! It's not Wilbur Smith's fault - it's the subject he's chosen. Like one other Shelfari reviewer of this novel, I too was ashamed to belong to a race of people who did what was done in this book. The story itself is a great read, and if you're going to read a novel set during one of Africa's darkes 5/5 stars. Well, I wish I could say that the ending of this book is bittersweet, but in truth it is very likely the saddest, most sickening and most infuriating ending that I have ever read. I loved it! It's not Wilbur Smith's fault - it's the subject he's chosen. Like one other Shelfari reviewer of this novel, I too was ashamed to belong to a race of people who did what was done in this book. The story itself is a great read, and if you're going to read a novel set during one of Africa's darkest periods, then you must prepare yourself for tragedy. But man, does it get tragic. [If you have read this book, I discuss this book further in more detail at this link: http://www.shelfari.com/groups/13180/...]. At the time of writing this review, the only COURTNEY novels I've read are the early ones ('Birds of Prey' through to 'Blue Horizon') and, as the plot of 'Men of Men' progressed, I couldn't help but compare Smith's two famous families. At the end of 'A Falcon Flies', there was one Ballantyne for me who helped me keep believing that the family was a "good" one - but by the end of this book, that charater commits a sin far worse than any they've previously condemned, and now I have nothing for the Ballantynes but contempt and disgust really. Will I be reading 'The Angels Weep'? You betcha - and soon. Just not immediately - you won't blame me for reading something a little lighter first, will you? No? Good. Jack Reacher, here I come.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mark Edlund

    Historical fiction Smith continues his story of the Ballantyne family in South Africa. The game is now much thinner after the whites have been slaughtering it for decades. The diamond mine at Kimberly continually needs new labour to keep expanding it. Zouga and Ralph Ballantyne are the main focus as they dig for diamonds. Cecil Rhodes plays a part. More than half way through the book the characters from the first book are brought in. Still sad to say a great civilization laid waste due to the whi Historical fiction Smith continues his story of the Ballantyne family in South Africa. The game is now much thinner after the whites have been slaughtering it for decades. The diamond mine at Kimberly continually needs new labour to keep expanding it. Zouga and Ralph Ballantyne are the main focus as they dig for diamonds. Cecil Rhodes plays a part. More than half way through the book the characters from the first book are brought in. Still sad to say a great civilization laid waste due to the white man's greed and underhanded dealings. Smith loves a good battle and an even better slaughter. Two Canadian references - Mungo St. John travels to Canada for business and one of the troopers is Canadian.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anbamuthan

    This saga of 18 century Africa is filled with adventure, itrigue, passion and violence. I read this book when i was in college. i had bought it from a second hannd book store and never bothered or had the time to read it. One day i had nothing to do and started browsing my bookshelf and through the pages of MEN OF MEN. That was it. I started reading and did not rest till i completed it. The characters are impressive and strong. Zouga ballantyne and Ralph are some of the most memorable ones i hav This saga of 18 century Africa is filled with adventure, itrigue, passion and violence. I read this book when i was in college. i had bought it from a second hannd book store and never bothered or had the time to read it. One day i had nothing to do and started browsing my bookshelf and through the pages of MEN OF MEN. That was it. I started reading and did not rest till i completed it. The characters are impressive and strong. Zouga ballantyne and Ralph are some of the most memorable ones i have ever come across. Some of the most amazing pages are when the ballantyne diamond is found inside the piece of blue rock.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Tim Bolitho-jones

    Not one of Smith's best but entertaining enough. The first few hundred pages in the diamond mine could have been skipped over in about half the time and he seems to have trouble figuring out who the lead character is. At first it's Zouga Ballantyne, then his son Ralph, then Zouga's sister Robyn, then the leader of the Matabele, then Ralph again...The language is beautifully evocative though and you can picture the African landscape in your mind's eye easily. His "tell it like it is" approach is Not one of Smith's best but entertaining enough. The first few hundred pages in the diamond mine could have been skipped over in about half the time and he seems to have trouble figuring out who the lead character is. At first it's Zouga Ballantyne, then his son Ralph, then Zouga's sister Robyn, then the leader of the Matabele, then Ralph again...The language is beautifully evocative though and you can picture the African landscape in your mind's eye easily. His "tell it like it is" approach is nice too and while it largely revolves around rich, heavily armed white men massacring tribal black men and stealing their land, you still feel sympathy and repulsion for both sides.

  17. 4 out of 5

    John

    The continuing adventures of Zouga Ballyntyne, as he returns to the dark continent set on funding his grand vision with diamond mining. The historical insights into the nascent diamond industry in Africa are great. The downfall of a great native African tribe and its leader were poignant. You could see the inevitability. There was no binary good and evil. Numerous parallels with the native American are evident, manipulative treaties, military action, exploitation of natural resources. Mix in som The continuing adventures of Zouga Ballyntyne, as he returns to the dark continent set on funding his grand vision with diamond mining. The historical insights into the nascent diamond industry in Africa are great. The downfall of a great native African tribe and its leader were poignant. You could see the inevitability. There was no binary good and evil. Numerous parallels with the native American are evident, manipulative treaties, military action, exploitation of natural resources. Mix in some great love stories and two boys from different cultures growing into men and fast-friends, then torn apart.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    This is the first (and will be the last) Wilbur Smith book I've read. As I had suspected from the start, it's a walloping great macho saga, full of testosterone and peopled by unpleasant, greedy characters. Fine for a beach read, but not much more. A shame really because Smith's description of Africa itself is vivid and clear - the only strong character study in the whole piece. His grasp of the period is good and I genuinely enjoyed reading about the harsh life in the diamond fields. I understa This is the first (and will be the last) Wilbur Smith book I've read. As I had suspected from the start, it's a walloping great macho saga, full of testosterone and peopled by unpleasant, greedy characters. Fine for a beach read, but not much more. A shame really because Smith's description of Africa itself is vivid and clear - the only strong character study in the whole piece. His grasp of the period is good and I genuinely enjoyed reading about the harsh life in the diamond fields. I understand that the characters shouldn't actually be likeable - they are 'raping' Africa afterall. However they are never more than flat, lifeless, cliche-ridden ciphers.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    Wilbur Smith does a masterful job of bringing to readers the destruction of native Africa's way of life at the turn of the century. Zouga Ballantyne and his two sons, Ralph and Jordan become involved with Cecil Rhodes who is building his own empire within the British sphere of influence. Zouga once again meets his sister, Robyn who is still using her medical skills along with her husband to give aid to the population. The effects of the mining for gold and diamonds are powerful in telling of the Wilbur Smith does a masterful job of bringing to readers the destruction of native Africa's way of life at the turn of the century. Zouga Ballantyne and his two sons, Ralph and Jordan become involved with Cecil Rhodes who is building his own empire within the British sphere of influence. Zouga once again meets his sister, Robyn who is still using her medical skills along with her husband to give aid to the population. The effects of the mining for gold and diamonds are powerful in telling of the story.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Maxi Shelton

    Wilbur Smith is one of my favourite authors to listen to on audio book. He is not for the faint hearted or weak stomached. He doesn't hold back with any of the descriptions on anything, truly! He will take you on a journey thats full of riches to just basically disgusting. You can almost hear, see and smell each scene he describes, you want to reach out and touch the riches and shrink away from the filth. It's something we all need to experience, great listen/read!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stuart

    Another good one but so many story lines happening that I actually had to go back and read a bit again. Still elephants and slaves and missionaries but with a Zulu war in Zimbabwe thrown in for good measure. The Whites were certainly terrible to the Zulus with their modern weapons versus spears and shields but the Zulus allegedly wiped out a million other natives when they took over Zimbabwe a generation earlier.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Alexander Kennedy

    Wilbur Smith does an amazing job of bringing together the lives of people from very different cultures. The book is full of action, deep friendship, and Smith's usual array of impressive vocabulary.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Smith is great with the battle actions. He can be a little "great white race" at times, but it is part of the era he is writing about. The personal stories of all his characters helps move the historical parts as well as complimentary to the action.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ram

    As usual with Wilbur Smith books allot of power and violence. Somehow while reading the book I double checked myself to be sure that I have not read it as the scenario's seemed familiar. Not sure I will read more books from this series.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    a sweeping adventure across the late 19th century history of South to Central Africa through diamond mining and Rhodes persuit of a route Northwards through modern day Zambia with the Valentine family; smashing read!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Hiram Kamau

    We can learn from these men who pioneered in reigning in the South of Africa. I was really impressed by Cecil Rhodes- a true pioneer with a truly inspiring drive. and of course Zouga stands out with his never-die attitude. this is an amazing book that has been outstandingly woven

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrew A.

    I love Wilbur Smith's books! If you have any interest in Africa, especially South Africa, he's the author for you. So descriptive! I always say, I can almost feel the heat and smell the rain, hear the roar of the lion or thunder of hooves... Great author, great story!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Not as good as the Counrtney's

  29. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    Another riveting read....captured from the 1st line!

  30. 4 out of 5

    John

    african take over by british in 1880s no good

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