Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars
“Fall of Giants” is book one of the Century Trilogy by Ken Follett. You may know Ken Follett from such books as “Eye of the Needle” and “Pillars of the Earth”. Both books were excellent. Pieces of “Fall of Giants” live up to the glory of his former books, but pieces also fall dead flat.
The Good: This is an historical fiction novel and much of the history is fascinating. For you “Downton Abbey” fans, this book takes place in roughly the same time period as portrayed in the series so far. It starts a little before World War I and continues through to Hitler’s arrest in 1941. The beginning of “Fall of Giants” is actually so “Downton Abbey”-ish that I wondered if one maybe copied off of the other, but each was released in 2010 so it looks like any similarities are purely coincidental.
Reading on how the world was inevitably dragged into World War I by a series of unfortunate events where at any point any party could have taken a step back and said “Whoah, what are we doing here?” and avoided the war makes for some great reading. Follett accomplishes this feat by following various characters from the major players around. The main characters are from England, Germany, Russia, and the United States. The characters all have their own independent lives but have the fortunate habit of finding themselves crossing paths in the unlikeliest of scenarios. Follett accomplishes this fairly seamlessly which is no small task. This seemless, if statistically unlikely crossing of paths, unfortunately, is also the key to the books greatest downfall which leads us to…
The Bad: Ken Follett can not for the life of him make romance interesting. You know that with such a vast array of characters, some of them are bound to pair off, but I wish Follett didn’t spend so much time on the couples getting together. There was so much of it that I considered, for a brief period, not reading the next two books. The sex scenes, of which there are many, are eye-gougingly bad. What’s funny is that once the various couples get married, many of their stories got really interesting.
If you have a shaky grasp of the history surrounding World War I and the Russian Revolution, there is a lot this book has to offer you. The story, romantic interludes aside, weaves a beautiful web of character development and intrigue with history as its backdrop. This isn’t a great book and it certainly has its flaws, but on balance it is worth reading.