... two historical novels laid the foundation for what no doubt will be Follett’s most audacious literary adventure: The Century Trilogy. If the first installment – the recently published Fall of Giants – is any sign, readers are in for a memorable, and lengthy, ride ... In Fall of Giants, he manages to steer more than 100 significant characters (fictional and real figures both stride across Follett’s vast stage) amid the buildup and subsequent carnage of World War I ... He allows a glimpse or two of everyone from King George V to Woodrow Wilson without sacrificing narrative momentum and while maintaining the story’s all-important verisimilitude ... Happenstance and coincidental meetings abound as Follett conjures twists and turns of fate that feel true ... It is here that Fall of Giants offers the reader consistent satisfaction.
His new novel, Fall of Giants, is the first volume of a projected trilogy in which the 20th century has replaced the Middle Ages as a stage for life’s grandeurs and miseries, but the book’s narrative structure is the same: multiple plot strands woven through a vast tapestry of times past ...various upheavals remake the world, affording plenty of scope for action, and Follett takes full advantage of this opportunity. Apart from the destinies of the monarchs, we follow the intertwined fates of five families, rich and poor, in Wales, England, Germany, Russia and America...the book’s main theme: the superiority of broad-mindedness and liberal thinking over unthinking adherence to the old ways, especially those exemplified by the decadent aristocracy ... Ken Follett is no Tolstoy, but he is a tireless storyteller, and although his tale has flaws, it’s grippingly told, and readable to the end.
At almost 1,000 pages, Fall of Giants, weaves the fictional lives of five families and some 100 secondary characters through the years between June 1911 and January 1924 ... Follett wants us to see how, creating characters to take us through this history ... Some of these figures are memorable, others not. Too often, they have long conversations, telling each other what they already know so we'll know it. At those times, they become props, and less compelling ... The novel is well researched. The war feels particular in the details, familiar in its scope ... Reading for story, this book delivers a good sense of the early 20th century.
Fall of Giants begins on June 22, 1911, a time, as Follett fans may longingly note, nearly 100 years before the invention of the e-book reader. But the march of lightweight book technology is hardly its main concern ... Given the pacing that he prefers, that leaves Fall of Giants no room to spare ...it tries to coax forth a grand panorama of history from a mosaic of everyday lives ... Whatever their nationalities, most of Mr. Follett’s main characters enjoy amazing front-row seats to the great historical events of their day ... What he does not have is any great talent for capturing real human interaction — not until his characters have mingled for hundreds and hundreds of scenes, and he has developed some semblance of a story ... He had the building of a cathedral, the Middle Ages and the Black Death to hold interest, but Fall of Giants is less exotic.
Hold this book, all 985 pages, in your hands. And then reflect that it's only Part I of a Century Trilogy, in which novelist Ken Follett will follow the various fortunes of five families as they traverse the 20th century ... It is a big leap from the medieval cathedral to the gathering storm clouds of World War I ...although Follett is just fine at creating dense and convoluted plot lines, it is the characters that grab us for this epic journey ... There are few slow points in the narrative, although this reader must confess to a few 'eyes-glazing-over' moments in the lengthy sections...he specializes in simple, direct writing that focuses on the story line rather than its embellishments ... It's well worth a journey of 985 pages through a book whose heft may help develop your biceps ... And while it sounds bizarre to consider a book this huge a 'page-turner,' that's exactly what Fall of Giants is.
Follett will surely solidify that reputation with Fall of Giants, the first installment of a hugely ambitious work-in-progress called The Century Trilogy ... As the series title indicates, it recounts – or begins to recount – the chaotic history of the 20th century ... Set against this historical panorama are the intertwined lives of dozens of characters, all of them shaped – and sometimes warped – by the pressures of class, gender, politics and war ... These are the central players, and their complex relationships encompass secret marriages, upstairs-downstairs romances, ill-timed pregnancies and assorted acts of love, lust and betrayal ... Despite all this, Fall of Giants offers pleasures that more than compensate for its lack of literary finesse.
On the heels of his last novel, World Without End, which took place in the Middle Ages, Ken Follett sets his formidable fictive sights a mere 100 years ago in Fall of Giants ...even the grandest topics can do with some human faces to bring them to life, and Follett has chosen to tell his tale through five families, from England, Germany, Russia, the United States … and Wales ...the Welsh sections of Fall of Giants stand out in boldface far more vividly than anything else in the novel ...his novel is reliably progressive in its viewpoint, whether dealing with the struggle for women's suffrage or the class system... Fictional characters are mixed in with real ones, but all are clearly drawn from life, making readers feel a certain comforting familiarity as they weave their way through all manner of turmoil and strife ...despite all its decorative embellishments, it has neither the requisite flavor or texture to satisfy.
...Ken Follett has launched perhaps the most compelling literary challenge of his long and successful career with the much heralded publication of Fall of Giants ... These fateful 15 years will set the stage for the events that spawned the First World War and the tumultuous century to follow ... The page count may seem daunting, but unlike many novels by other well-known authors who are justifiably guilty of running overlong and wordy, he has chiseled his narrative to a fine point, and the pages fly ...the strongest point of the book is to bring to light why the First World War happened and why the Bolsheviks won the Russian Revolution ... While Follett doesn’t write the book with a cliffhanger ending, one can’t help but wonder how our intrepid heroes and their progeny who have already survived the worst of what the first quarter-century had to throw at them will now fare.
Fall of Giants is classic Follett. It's long — almost 1,000 pages; it's populated with hundreds of characters whose lives are intertwined; it's set on a tumultuous world stage; it's a good read ... Everything in this novel is oversized, from the scope of history it covers to the characters he creates ... The five families in Fall of Giants— American, English, Welsh, Russian and German — are all affected by what's happening worldwide, of course, but Follett takes the readers into their everyday lives... In addition to world wars and revolutions, Follett gives women's suffrage considerable ink since it was one of the major movements of the early part of the century.
The giants in question, metaphorically, are the great and noble families of old Europe, a generally useless lot with a few notable exceptions ... Into the Fitzherbertian orbit fall the Williamses, Welsh colliers of sweet voice and radical disposition; if Follett’s sprawling story has a center, it is in Billy, who is but 13 as the saga opens and has a great deal of growing up to do ... But so, too, does a full six-page dramatis personae, so that there’s never a dull or unpeopled moment. Throughout it all, Follett keeps a dependable narrative chugging along; if the writing is never exalted, it is never less than workmanlike, though one wonders about anachronisms here and there.
This first in a century-spanning trilogy from bestseller Follett makes effective and economical use of its lead characters, despite its scope and bulk. From a huge cast, eight figures emerge to play multiple roles that illustrate and often illuminate the major events, trends, and issues of the years leading up to and immediately beyond WWI... Ingenious plotting allows Follett to explore such salient developments of the era as coal mine safety in Wales, women's suffrage, the diplomatic blundering that led to war, the horrors of trench warfare, and the triumph of the Bolsheviks ... While this tome doesn't achieve the emotional depth of the best historicals, it is a remarkable and wonderfully readable synthesis of fact and fiction.