Friday, August 28, 2015

Edge of Eternity

Last night I finished the third book in Ken Follett's Century Trilogy.  It was a trek.


I wrote about the first book of the series Fall of Giants back in 2013 and I was very positive about it.  I really enjoyed it.  I read the second one in the series, Winter of the World and it was good, but not quite as good as the first.  The third started out okay but really derailed for me in the last third of the book and this book is big so the last third was almost 400 pages.  

Fall of Giants focused on WWI and covered a span of thirteen years, Winter of the World covered WWII and looked at sixteen years of history, but Edge of Eternity covered the Cold War and spanned almost thirty years.  That kind of time frame was just too much to effectively fit into one cohesive narrative.  Some parts of the history were great, like the section on the Cuban Missile Crisis that I knew next to nothing about.  Follett was able to write it in a way that kept all the urgency and heighten tensions even though you knew as a reader that no nuclear bombs were ever dropped on Russia.  Some parts really suffered for it though, such as the incredibly brief and unnecessary look at the Black Panthers and second wave feminism.  These were both big and significant movements of their day, but were given such flippant time in the book that it would have been better to leave them out entirely than have a sentence about a man not understanding why a woman wanted a career and a child and that she was mad when he suggested she quit work.  It's too complex an issue to deal with that tritely.

Another part of the problem with this book that had been building throughout the series was the shear number of characters.  Each book followed subsequent generations of the characters introduced in the first book.  I lay in bed one night when I couldn't sleep and couldn't the number of characters you needed to know that included extended family members and complicated intermarrying and came up with thirty-five "important" characters, eight major historical figures, and 30-60 minor characters.  That's a lot.  It's just too much to be effective.

The final problem was that the 60s through the mid 70s were covered in fantastic detail.  By the time you got to the late 70s and into the 80s, however, Follett was running out of time and space and so things that should have had more weight were glossed over and major events got a brief nod. This was especially true if those events were at all positive to conservatives who took a beating in this book.  I understand the author was liberal and can write whatever, but his opinions on conservatives in politics and even in the public were handled with all the subtlety of a massive elephant tromping across the pages.  The squish-everything-in policy led to a couple of storylines that had been going on for hundreds of pages never being wrapped up, which is more than a little frustrating when you're waiting for that payoff.

All in all, I finished.  I loved the first, liked the second, and completed the third in this trilogy.  Now on to a very "fluffy" book to give my brain a break! 

1 comment:

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