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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. 4 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)] (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!! 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. 5 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. 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. 5 out of 5

    Didi A

    I really loved this book - it's Wilbur Smith at his best - exciting adventure, interesting history, and the heart-stopping scenery of Africa in their most spectacular, lavish form. The first roughley two-thirds of the book pick up the story of Zouga Ballantyne years after A Falcon Flies, as he arrives at the newly setup Kimberley diamond mine (today known as Big Hole - and visible from space!) with his wife and two grown sons to make a fortune, which would allow him to go back north to Matabelel I really loved this book - it's Wilbur Smith at his best - exciting adventure, interesting history, and the heart-stopping scenery of Africa in their most spectacular, lavish form. The first roughley two-thirds of the book pick up the story of Zouga Ballantyne years after A Falcon Flies, as he arrives at the newly setup Kimberley diamond mine (today known as Big Hole - and visible from space!) with his wife and two grown sons to make a fortune, which would allow him to go back north to Matabeleland - the beautiful treasure-laden herd-trodden land of the Matabele tribe. After dramatic turns of fate and many reunions, the story moves to Matabeleland, where a war is coming between the white men and the impi of the Matabele king. It's a glorious pageturner. Of course there are some legacies of the 1980s that bother me - like the depiction of women - which can at times be inspiringly forward, like Robyn, but then swoon like crazy at the sight of men (like Mungo St. John, who is, in all honesty, an actual villain) or marry the likes of Ralph (who is of the opinion that a wife needs a good beating and a kitchen to cook your meals in??? - but that was only mentioned once and was not very consistent with the rest of his chapters, so I decided to ignore and forget). What bothered me the most was the unresolved or rather non-existing personal conflict, which must have existed for Zouga especially, but also for Ralph, when facing against the Matabele. I feel it was never mentioned. I definitely missed some introspection there. Maybe that is left for the third book (can't wait!)

  8. 4 out of 5

    Coleen

    As with some of Wilbur Smith's other books, this one dealt mainly with Africa and its people and history. In other words, I loved it. I really liked the story for all the same reasons that I have enjoyed all of his other books: he knows Africa, having been born there and having lived there most of his life. The descriptions are accurate and gorgeous. The landscapes and the animals, even though I have read some of these descriptions previously, never cease to astound me. The action, while fictio As with some of Wilbur Smith's other books, this one dealt mainly with Africa and its people and history. In other words, I loved it. I really liked the story for all the same reasons that I have enjoyed all of his other books: he knows Africa, having been born there and having lived there most of his life. The descriptions are accurate and gorgeous. The landscapes and the animals, even though I have read some of these descriptions previously, never cease to astound me. The action, while fiction, answered quite a few questions for me as to how people at one time in the neighborhood of ten million [natives] could be outwitted or outmaneuvered by one million colonials [those who moved there within the last three to four hundred years]. There are still more of Wilbur Smith's books out there that I have not read, but that I plan to do so.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jacob O'connor

    “A saint does not make such a fortune in so short a time."  This might sum up Wilbur Smith's story.  There is no traditional villain.  Rather, the "bad guys" are those who came to Africa for fame and fortune -- and trampled over those who were there before.  Who are the men of men?  There is a clue toward the end of the novel.  I can tell you who it isn’t.  It isn’t those who never rise to maturity.  They are forever encased in the amber of adolescence.  Chasing the next passion.  Succumbing to “A saint does not make such a fortune in so short a time."  This might sum up Wilbur Smith's story.  There is no traditional villain.  Rather, the "bad guys" are those who came to Africa for fame and fortune -- and trampled over those who were there before.  Who are the men of men?  There is a clue toward the end of the novel.  I can tell you who it isn’t.  It isn’t those who never rise to maturity.  They are forever encased in the amber of adolescence.  Chasing the next passion.  Succumbing to the latest lust.  Nor is it those who never rise even to the level of humanity but instead act like animals.  Raping and pillaging to fill their bellies.  The titular man of mans in the story doesn't get his due.  Not even from the author, but maybe that's the point.  Being a man of mans is its own reward. 

  10. 5 out of 5

    Edward Stautberg

    Action driven historical fiction romp (for most of it) but left me with lots of questions I started reading this and put it down for a couple months. I picked it up again and tore through it. The action set pieces drive the story along, but there were SO many unanswered questions. Or characters would do things that seemed wrong and totally skip consequences. I don't know, maybe its Victorian politeness, but if I was placed in some of those situations, I certainly wouldn't have reacted in the same w Action driven historical fiction romp (for most of it) but left me with lots of questions I started reading this and put it down for a couple months. I picked it up again and tore through it. The action set pieces drive the story along, but there were SO many unanswered questions. Or characters would do things that seemed wrong and totally skip consequences. I don't know, maybe its Victorian politeness, but if I was placed in some of those situations, I certainly wouldn't have reacted in the same way. Unrelatable. And no consequences, big things happen that are totally glossed over, its like, Whaaaaaat?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Julie Tombs

    This is a long book and I had to force myself to finish it as Wilbur Smith is supposed to be a great story teller. This story shows the white men taking the Matebele tribal lands and killing thousands with their guns. The first half is better with them mining for diamonds and the story of Zouga Ballantyne and his sons Ralph and Jordan. I had not read the first book of the series so am not sure if I lost anything from that. The second half of the book jumps around a bit and I found it upsetting t This is a long book and I had to force myself to finish it as Wilbur Smith is supposed to be a great story teller. This story shows the white men taking the Matebele tribal lands and killing thousands with their guns. The first half is better with them mining for diamonds and the story of Zouga Ballantyne and his sons Ralph and Jordan. I had not read the first book of the series so am not sure if I lost anything from that. The second half of the book jumps around a bit and I found it upsetting to see how the English stole the land from the king of Matebele. It is a great adventure story though with lots of action. I could not really gel with any of the characters, even Zouga.

  12. 5 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.

  13. 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. 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mya

    4.5 stars Thoroughly enjoyed this. Don't read it as fact or a commentary on our checkered, biased, African past. Just read it as a romping adventure. Enjoyed learning about the different people, following the various stories and love interests, and even learning a bit more about the diamond industry. You probably would get more out of it if you had read the first in the series, but I haven't and I still enjoyed it for what it was. 4.5 stars Thoroughly enjoyed this. Don't read it as fact or a commentary on our checkered, biased, African past. Just read it as a romping adventure. Enjoyed learning about the different people, following the various stories and love interests, and even learning a bit more about the diamond industry. You probably would get more out of it if you had read the first in the series, but I haven't and I still enjoyed it for what it was.

  15. 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.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Gary Denton

    Men of Men is a fictional account of some of the colonial period in South African history. Wilbur Smith's writing is rather old fashioned and it rambles sometimes. But men are men (except for the gay ones) and women are (well) women. It is not so much literature as history. I skimmed a bit to get through some boring stretches. A friend recommended it, but I won't read any more of his books. Men of Men is a fictional account of some of the colonial period in South African history. Wilbur Smith's writing is rather old fashioned and it rambles sometimes. But men are men (except for the gay ones) and women are (well) women. It is not so much literature as history. I skimmed a bit to get through some boring stretches. A friend recommended it, but I won't read any more of his books.

  17. 5 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.

  18. 5 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.

  19. 4 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. 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.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Niel Knoblauch

    A very enjoyable read, with only the last 4 pages being a bit of an anticlimax. Being book 2 in a trilogy, I'll forgive it that, and look forward to book 3. A very enjoyable read, with only the last 4 pages being a bit of an anticlimax. Being book 2 in a trilogy, I'll forgive it that, and look forward to book 3.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Reade

    Great book loved it

  22. 5 out of 5

    Leek

    Sequel to A Falcon Flies...don’t know if I can finish it. I’m only about 30% into it. Read it many years ago. This is 2nd read. Mostly about Zouga Ballentyn and diamond mining. i think Robyn comes into it later.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Peter price

    Good reading time Excellent book just keeps you wanting more makes you pick up the book at the table first chance you get and so hard to put the book down

  24. 5 out of 5

    Guy Salomon

    Not my favourite Wilbur Smith novel - heavy themes of colonialism, not to mention the glorified portrayal of Rhodes

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mia Tamjid

    The greatest novel ever written 🏴‍☠️

  26. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    Listened as unabridged Library borrow Fascinating, S.Africa in time of Rhodes. End, tired up threads, but no mention of Ralph & Cathy. Sad that author didn’t explore Celina’s story.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nambiar Deepak

    I enjoyed it. Spans a generation and the ending makes you buy the next one in the ballantyne series

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kathy MacDonald

    South African history is always interesting and Wilbur Smith always weaves some entertaining fiction around the historical details.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mr Roy Davidson

    A good fist third all about diamonds. Courtney books were about how to get the gold out; this was interesting about how to extract the diamonds and the introduction of Cecil Rhodes. A slow middle third that was too long and too detailed re the Matabele tribe. The last third, sad but predictable, shows how the gun is mightier than the sword. Genocide in the name of the British Empire. Yes, it was a different era, but this is terrible. I did not enjoy this as much as Ballantyne #01, but will carry A good fist third all about diamonds. Courtney books were about how to get the gold out; this was interesting about how to extract the diamonds and the introduction of Cecil Rhodes. A slow middle third that was too long and too detailed re the Matabele tribe. The last third, sad but predictable, shows how the gun is mightier than the sword. Genocide in the name of the British Empire. Yes, it was a different era, but this is terrible. I did not enjoy this as much as Ballantyne #01, but will carry on to book #03.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    So tragic at times I struggled to read on but an amazingly well written and now will have to read "The Angels Wept" #3 in The Ballantyne Novels. I loved the character Robyn. She was a gutsy missionary woman. Smith describes the landscape, culture and warfare and greed so well. The providence of man or woman. The clash of cultures. So tragic at times I struggled to read on but an amazingly well written and now will have to read "The Angels Wept" #3 in The Ballantyne Novels. I loved the character Robyn. She was a gutsy missionary woman. Smith describes the landscape, culture and warfare and greed so well. The providence of man or woman. The clash of cultures.

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