113 of 132 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2013
I started this novel but just couldn't do it and gave up part way through. I understand that this series is hugely popular, and in fact, the book was lent to me by a coworker who is a fan. I have to admit, the novel was highly readable and I found the pages turning quickly. It became an issue of quality for me. As I was reading it, I just kept thinking 'This is just a big old cheesy soap opera'.
It was hard to read because my eyes were always rolling. Take this sequence from the end of Chapter 2:
He gazed back at her. "You are absolutely enchanting," he said in a low voice; then he kissed her again.
This time she pushed him away. "My lord, what are you doing?" she said in a shocked whisper.
"I don't know."
"But what can you be thinking of?"
"I'm not thinking at all."
She stared up at his chiseled face. The green eyes studied her intently, as if trying to read her mind. She realized she adored him. Suddenly she was flooded with excitement and desire.
"I can't help myself," he said.
She sighed happily. "Kiss me again then," she said.
I read a few more chapters after this, but it was just sooo baaad. I guess a lot of people like this sort of thing but it just doesn't appeal to me. I found the writing pedestrian, the dialogue clunky, and the story too melodramatic for my tastes.
96 of 119 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2012
I really loved-- I mean LOVED -- Follett's previous novels-- Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. So you can imagine how excited I was to read this next book.
Well, 300 pages later, and I cannot get over how dreadfully boring this is. I'm no professional book critic -- just someone who likes reading novels -- so I don't have the proper words to describe what's wrong with this book other than to say that it's incredibly boring. If I want to fall asleep, all I have to do is open this book and within 5 minutes I'm bored to tears. The effect is something similar to opening my high school chemistry textbook or maybe staring at cement dry.
Sometimes I start reading it, only to realize an hour later that I had already been through that entire section-- that's how totally unmemorable each and every chapter of this book is.
I've tried finding a single character with whom I could sympathize, to no avail. I'm not looking for some heroic icon or remarkable woman/man of intellect, just someone with a modicum of emotional depth or maybe who doesn't come across like a stepford wife or boorish lout. They do not exist in this book.
I kind of find it hard to believe that this is even the same author who wrote the other books I so loved.
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2013
Too long, too many characters and too woolly; thankfully, I bought the Kindle version so I didn't have to lug the tome around. Somewhere in here there just may be a good book (or two, or three) but somehow I doubt it.
The first scenes, set in and around the mine, were quite interesting but it was all downhill from there. Most of the characters were just cardboard cut-outs and when I arrived at the `aristocrat and maid' storyline I couldn't believe what I was reading - surely a professional story-teller could do better than that? From some reason I continually had a vision of a Terry-Thomas comedy film, so stereotypical was that plot.
Just about the only character for whom I had any sympathy was Maud, yet the description of her life after the war was over in a flash whereas we were asked to endure page after page of `working class hero(es) dragging themselves up by his/her/their bootlaces' - not original and not clever. Why didn't the author have the imagination to chart Maud's change of lifestyle at the end of the book in more than a couple of paragraphs?
What was the point of the Russia and USA storylines? Why not throw in a couple of characters from the Far East and South America for good measure? That would have eaten up a few hundred extra pages, since size seemed to be the main concern.
Clearly I have not understood the point of this book. Why, for example, in the midst of dialogue, descriptions of emotions, gratuitous sex and so on did we suddenly have an essay on the formation of Russian committees, pages of prose with no characterisation that could have been lifted from a school textbook and was even less entertaining?
I've enjoyed some of Mr Follett's previous books but this was a complete waste of my time; thank goodness I was sitting on a beach at the time so I can brand it accordingly.
105 of 135 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2010
Having savored every word of "Pillars of the Earth" and "World Without End", I feel great disappointment in Follett's latest book. What caught my immediate attention were the "thin" characterizations, each one nominally no more than a stick figure upon an epic World War I scene that was described in the same thinness. Further setbacks in my reading were the "chance" meetings of the characters, each one seemingly contrived for convenience of the storyline and smacking of unbelievability. The portrayal of witty characters, both historical and fictional, lacked depth and sometimes purpose. The unusual number of sexual encounters came across as shallow, certainly not titillating to the reader's imagination. I think Follett has become a "commercial" writer now, exchanging a beautiful talent for words governed by the lure of a dollar sign. This book reminds me so much of some of Michener's and Grisham's later works when they, too, had become commercial. I can't see that a trilogy will rescue this initial effort.
40 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2013
For me, No.
I am a lover of historical fiction, a la Michener and Rutherfurd, and so was excited when Ken Follet tossed his hat in the genre ring. What a disappointment! My biggest complaints with the book are:
1. Boring! After the first few pages, it reads like a cheap history text. Every character seems mesmerized by history and politics - that's all they ever talk about! Over dinner, while fighting, while working, and even before, during, and after sex! No real person would ever talk the way these characters talk - they would be scorned out of the room.
2. Cliched! Think of your most predictable far-left comic book of history, add a few fictional characters, and presto! Every Lord or Lady, whether English, Russian, or German, is petty, conniving, ruthless, and uncaring. Every working class member, from the maids to the coal miners to the factory workers were attempted to be written as interesting, likeable, honest, and noble. Bolsheviks = good. Capitalists = bad. Priests = rapists. Nobility = spoiled.
3. No Plot! Follet has a great writing style and the books of his that I have read before this were page-turners. But, while the actual writing of this was good, the plot was non-existent. No climax or resolution apart from the well-known historical timeline. No character arch, nothing learned, nothing improved. And at the end, when you were waiting for your favorite people to get their just rewards, and the bad guys to get their comeuppance, pfffft. I have rarely felt so disappointed upon finishing a book in my life.
In summary, if you are a liberal history textbook junkie who is bored on a friday night, this might be for you. If you are looking for well thought-out, entertaining, fresh historical fiction, don't waste your time.
74 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on October 20, 2010
After Pillars of the Earth, I was waiting for this book with bated breath. What a disappointment! I thought the character development was poor, and too much of the book involved historical fact rather than incorporating fiction with the history. I can read non-fiction history books but I find them dry and lifeless. That's what this was. It was painful for me to finish it, but I'm not one to quit easily. In retrospect, I should have given up earlier and moved onto something more enjoyable and captivating.
31 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2011
Ken Follett is one of my most favorite authors. I have read all of his books. I was very disappointed in "Fall of the Giants" It being the first part of a trilogy I hope Mr Follet abandons book 2 and 3 and moves on to writing novels the way he has in the past.
Even though he had great success with his past epic novels World Without End and Pillars of the Earth, bigger isn't always better, at least in the case of Fall of Giants. Worst book I have read in years. I only kept reading to the end because Follett is one of my favorite authors and I was hoping it would get better the futher I read but disappointingly it didn't.
280 of 384 people found the following review helpful
If you were one of those people who eagerly awaited the release of Ken Follett's Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy), you are in for a nasty surprise. This book (which is supposed to be the first in a trilogy) is nothing whatsoever like The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. Follett's previous historical novels were highly entertaining. I read both of them in a few short days and enjoyed myself immensely.
The annoying aspects of Fall of Giants are many. Follett bases his book on the most tired and silly prejudices about the nations he discusses. All Germans are "orderly", "well-organized", punctual, and prissy. All Russians are "surly", "primitive", "barbaric", "corrupt", violent, alcoholic criminals. All Russian women are, of course, drunken whores. The only marginally acceptable Russian is the character who is obsessed with moving to the US. All Austrians are effete, perverted, weak, hysterically aggressive, unreasonable idiots. The French are weepy and useless fools. The French women are also all whores, but at least they whore around while sober. And, of course, all Jews know and help each other, forming a sort of an international Jewish mafia. All British people are insanely promiscuous (don't ask.) The culmination of the British promiscuity is reflected in a scene where the sister of an English earl (sic!) gives a hand-job to a German attache in the opera-house behind the backs (literally) of her brother the earl, Lloyd George, and foreign dignitaries. To top it all, there are the saintly Americans who, after torturing themselves over it for hours, decide to send invading troops to Mexico in order to bring peace and democracy to the wayward Mexicans. To the Americans' huge surprise, Mexicans are not overjoyed about the invasion and fail to be grateful to their caring neighbors to the North.
The way Follett panders to his American readers (whom he then proceeds to insult with the RIDICULOUS Kindle price) is so obsequious that it borders on disgusting. Unlike those nasty Europeans and tyrannical Mexicans, America (meaning, of course, the US) is "rich, busy, exciting, and free." There is no anti-semitism (once again, this is taking place in 1914), workers have amazing working conditions, are rich, and enjoy running water and electricity at home. Of course, each worker has at least two rooms all to himself. (I guess, Upton Sinclair is not to be trusted in his accounts of the horrible living conditions of immigrant workers in the US at the turn of the century.) American women are not subjected. They are all independent, "free", and have exciting careers. I wonder what happened since 1914 to change all that. Possibly, an explanation will be forthcoming in the next two books in the trilogy. The only problems that exist in the godly America are caused by the surly, criminal, promiscuous immigrants who keep trying to take advantage of the saintly Americans.
For some strange reason, Follett hates Russia to the extent where he stoops to egregious falsifications of Russian history. He makes blanket accusation of mass pedophilia amongst the priests of the ROC, which is not sustained by any kind of historic evidence. The priests of the Russian Orthodox Church are not only allowed to marry, they are required to do so. This suggestion that the ROC priests molest their parishioners' children en masse is simply wrong.
Follett also states that the ROC priests massively collaborated with the secret police during the tsarist regime. Such collaboration with the secret police did, in fact, take place. However, it happened during a completely different time period and under completely different circumstances. I'd never even heard of any suggestion that the priests of the Russian Empire collectively betrayed secrets told to them in confession to the tsar's secret police. This is a figment of Follett's unhealthy imagination.
This tendency to collapse historic periods in Russia into one huge mess is evident in many other aspects of Follett's novel. He doesn't seem to realize that serfdom (the Russian equivalent of slavery) was abolished in 1861. The nobles who owned peasants before serfdom was abolished did, indeed, torture, maim and kill their serfs almost indiscriminately and sometimes with no punishment. That, however, became impossible after 1861. At the turn of the XX century, the relationship between the nobles and the peasants, while still problematic, was in no way similar to the way it was in the pre-1861 era.
Follett's annoying tendency to present all Russians as heartless, vile jerks really gets too much at times. There is a scene (that takes place in 1914) when a police officer assaults and tries to rape a young woman in the streets of St. Petersburg. The narrator makes a very weird statement about how "no Russian would address a peasant . . . courteously." This is, of course, ridiculously wrong. There always were many people in Russia who would address anybody in a courteous way. Suggesting otherwise, is simply offensive.
While the first half of the book is at least well-plotted, the second half of the novel is a choppy, disjointed mess of loosely connected and excruciatingly boring scenes.
So if you boycotted the Kindle version of the book because of the crazy price, you have to know that you made the right decision in several respects. This book is a complete and total failure.
63 of 85 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2011
Ken Follett has always been one of my favorite authors. But with this latest book, Fall of Giants, he has disappointed me. The book is long and slow. It does not have the drama and gripping story lines of his others books. It is the most boring saga I've read in a long time. I hope this is not his new style of writing.
118 of 163 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2010
I did not read this book expecting something good (I read it because I had to, long story); so the book did have some room to rise above my expectations. It didn't. It so didn't.
Follett is a typical Master-of-the-Thriller kind of writer, on par with the likes of Lee Child and Dan Brown; that is to say, a hack with an incredibly limited set of literary skills. This includes even vocabulary, which, let me tell you, does NOT bode well for a 1000-page "epic". I can't count the times a character was "elated", or "stared in disbelief" at something, and these are just two of the paint-by-numbers, all-purpose, dead-in-the-water expressions that are supposed to mark for us some character's reaction to something. The whole thing reads more like the first draft of a script, so poorly is it written, and I'm sure Mr. Follett had the TV or film rights in mind while writing. Because on the level of style, this is NOT a literary text.
As to incidents and characters, it is a parade of cliches, hollow melodrama and outright boredom. The book is padded unto absurdity with pointless "introspection", characters reiterating their own thoughts every other page, events recapped in long and utterly superfluous paragraphs. The book could've been at least two times as short and tell the same story.
And then there is Follett's apparent idiotic assumption that a historical novel, in order to be a "good" historical novel, should read like a History textbook or an encyclopedia half the time. About 80% ot the historical information in the book is infodumped in the lamest possible way, with the poor characters having pointless conversations about this or that economical or sociological detail in scenes that usually have nothing to do with progressing the plot or giving us an insight into those characters - and of course it does nothing to build atmosphere either, since historical novels gain their punch from making history come alive; this CANNOT happen when a bunch of cardboard cutouts TALK ABOUT history, while they sit at tables. Not to mention that in order to write a good historical novel, you DON'T NEED the amount of information that this book struggles under. Hilary Mantel managed to write a brilliant novel and win a Booker without so much as a paragraph of infodumping about Britain's state under Henry VIII in the first 100 pages of Wolf Hall (that's where I'm at right now).
I get that this meaninglessly elaborated, poorly written story COULD provide a kind of immersion by virtue of its sheer bulk, but no matter if you like it or not, I wouldn't call Fall of Giants a literary experience by any stretch of the imagination. In that last respect, it fails utterly.