"Every catastrophe begins with a little problem that doesn't get fixed." So says Pauline Green, president of the United States, in Follett's drama of international tension. A shrinking oasis in the Sahara Desert; a stolen US Army drone; an uninhabited Japanese island; and one country's secret stash of deadly chemical poisons: all these play roles in a relentlessly escalating crisis.
Never is both an up-to-the-minute thriller that explores the tensions and conflicts of the modern world and a sprawling, globe-spanning saga that contains multitudes ... The resulting portrait of a world stumbling toward the unthinkable is credibly detailed and alarmingly plausible ... Never is a cautionary tale about the power of unintended consequences, and it is disturbing and illuminating in equal measure. Follett has always been an accomplished storyteller, but his latest reflects a sense of urgency that lifts it well above typical apocalyptic thrillers. Never is first-rate entertainment that has something important to say. It deserves the popular success it will almost certainly achieve.
Follett’s tale proceeds to creep toward that edge via storylines that, at first, seem far-flung and unrelated ... A doorstop of a book at 800 pages, Follett’s story captivates but at times loses emotional steam. This is matter-of-fact writing that’s heavier on plot and pacing than on the characters’ interior lives ... readers may well rub their bulging eyes, sit back, and wholeheartedly agree.
Never is set essentially in the present-day, the world much as we know it with mostly just the names of those in power different ... It's a slow spiral of events—the story stays at DEFCON 1-level for almost half its length—but spiral, ever downward, they do. Some of the connections are very loose...but pretty much each little bit has some knock-on effects. Follett plays this out fairly well ... For a long time, Never feels like a start-and-stop thriller, relatively small crises unfolding but then mostly held in check or reined in. Only cumulatively is their effect all out of proportion: Follett takes his time with his snowball-effect—but once it reaches a certain size and things get really rolling, boy, do they come hard and fast. Follett shows how easily governments can find themselves boxed in, seeing no way out except taking the next step, even as it's clear that that will likely lead to disaster ... There is something to be said for Follett's very tight focus on his main cast of characters, with the others—even the in some case more powerful figures—mostly remaining in the periphery of the novel—but in some cases he does spend an awfully long time on events that are largely themselves peripheral ... If somewhat bloated in some of the African parts and with a rather ham-fisted effort to emphasize the human side of the characters, Never is otherwise a fairly solid thriller. Follett's thought-experiment is certainly an interesting one, and plays out all too realistically, making for some worrying food for thought.