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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I thoroughly enjoyed Ken Follett's epics, "Pillars of the Earth" and "World Without End". Though they are hefty tomes, the pages flew. Thus I jumped at the chance to read and review Follett's latest epic, "Fall of Giants" which promises to be the first in The Century Trilogy. When it arrived from Amazon at ~1000 pages and 4 inches thick, I found myself contemplating one of the advantages of having a slim Kindel (I don't). When the thing comes out in hardback in September it could be used a murder weapon!

But we all know that size doesn't matter when you've got an expert storyteller weaving an enthralling tale. I became so engrossed that I'd look up and 100 pages would have flown by. What is it that makes Follett so consistently "readable"? In "Fall of Giants" it's because the book is so well researched about the period (early 20th century especially WWI) with information on coal mining, trade unions, women's suffrage, protocols and manners of the minor royalty, politics, government, revolution and war. The story flows from this rich period but the riveting characters are at the forefront. Even the largely unsympathetic characters, such as the Earl, are made at least understandable because Follett thoughtfully portrays their motivations. There are few totally good or evil characters here, as it should be. (Though Follett seems none too fond of Russians and priests - be they Catholic, Anglican or Orthodox!)

In past reviews I have criticized authors that I believe would benefit from more editing (e.g., Steven King, John Irving) so why don't I find Follett's book to be too long? Because there are no slow spots, no political point pushing, and no self-indulgent purple prose.

I learned a great deal about WWI reading this novel, what led up to it and how it set the stage for WWII, which I hope is the subject of the next volume. It was fascinating to read about how the media and the governments of all the countries involved, lied to their people about how bad it was.

One other thing that I believe readers should know going in: as mentioned, this is Part One of a promised trilogy but, like "Pillars" and "World" it is a stand-alone novel. The reader is not left gripping a cliff at the end. I recently very much enjoyed Connie Willis' "Blackout" which DOES end with a cliff hanger and I am glad I knew that going in; some readers didn't and felt cheated. You will not feel at all cheated at the end of "Fall of Giants". Enjoy!
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on July 4, 2015
I rarely read books this long as I am a slow reader. This story was so compelling, so many sets of characters from different countries (primarily Great Britain, Germany, Russia, France and the US) that I read it fairly quickly. The story line follows the developments of World War 1 from its start to finish. While I thought I knew the outcome, I had never understood this war at all. This book gave me a much better understanding of that time in history (even gave me an understanding of the Russian revolution) all without feeling like I was reading a history lesson. It was exciting, exhilarating, depressing, confusing, sad and joyful - I can honestly say, never a dull moment. The characters are great. Many strong women characters, at odds with their times. Gives a good understanding of class distinctions in England, and how these were somewhat obliterated by WW1. Just a well written interesting, and sometimes challenging read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and plan to read the second part of the Century Trilogy by Follett.
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on August 3, 2017
Fall of Giants

Although Fall of Giants is about World I and circumstances leading up to the start of the war, it is primarily about everyday people. There is the Williams family—young Billy Williams is going to the coal mine for the first time—and his Sister Ethel, who works at the house of Earl Edward Fitzherbert (Fitz) of Aberowen (a fictional Welsh town). Fitz, a conservative, is married to Bea, a Russian Princess and his a sister Maud who has very liberal views. Maud falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a German nobleman and a former schoolmate of Fitz’s.

We are also introduced to the Peshkov orphans from Russia, who work in a locomotive factory, and hold a personal grudge against Princess Bea for the murder of their parents. We meet Gus Dewar, who is a close adviser to President Woodrow Wilson.

Although it is a work of fiction and we find the lives of these characters intertwining as the cause of the First World War is explained and WWI is declared, historical facts are linked in the telling of the collapse of Imperial Russia (Lenin’s role in the rise of the Bolsheviks) and Germany’s role in the bloody war that led to Europe’s economic collapse and the rise of Hitler. The novel also devotes several chapters on women’s rights (suffrage) in Britain.

Mr. Follett shows us the devastation caused by the war and of the suffering of the soldiers in the trenches and the thousands who are killed in action while the politicians hide the real facts from the masses. We find the characters and their extended families trying to survive in the world they find themselves in, the quality of life, health, and education. The effects of the First World War are brought out vividly as these characters interact with each other, and their fortunes change some for better, others for worse.

A very interesting read indeed.
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on March 22, 2017
It can be debated that Fall of Giants is a story about war, politics or history during the WW1 period, and such considerations certainly hold; but above all, this story highlights one area over any other. This story examines social injustice.
The book follows the lives of five interrelated families from different social classes, countries and religions. Each member was part of that period, affected by its events and trying to adapt his life to survive in such a harsh era.
The vast number of main characters are all well described, and the reader can easily build a connection with each one of them. Also the story is strong, complex, and well researched making the book a page turner and a historical reference. Minor events can be described as lucky co-incidents if not to say unrealistic happenings but they do not come up lousily or inferior to the rest of the book.
Back to social injustice, there are welsh coal-miners and British aristocracy, Citizens of St. Petersburg and the Russian royalty, and a French revolution that brought an end to all that in France. People across Europe were starving, unions were weak or non-existent and women had to fight for their vote in Britain. Jews were of a lower class especially in Russia and Germany, and the only light that seemed to be shining came from the land across the Atlantic. All these points were clearly described as a prerequisite for the Bolshevik revolution and for the socialist parties across the continent.
Some descriptions of that injustice were so intense and disturbing, women prostituting in Russia for a loaf of bread, overnight queues in front of bakeries, widows cruelly kicked of their homes in wales in front of helpless unions.
War covered the biggest part of the book and was detailed in an objective manner although it should be said that the Welsh and Russian troops had more focus compared to the rest of the troops especially Austria and Germany. While reading about the war, I felt that the author was emphasizing more the casualties and destruction than the winnings and glory as if to say that when it comes to soldiers and to humanity, wars are always lost on both sides of battle.
I would recommend this book for readers interested in history, politics, societies or war. It is packed with fiction yet historically accurate. The book is very interesting but will require a lot of time to finish as it has more than 850 pages.
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on July 13, 2017
Having read some of Follett's other books (the Kingsbridge series, Eye of the Needle, etc.), I began The Century Trilogy series. What began as a fascinating read in books one and two, turned in to complete disappointment in book three. My mother's forefathers were coalminers in Wales, prior to immigrating to America, so I was captivated by characters who may have lived very similar lives to those who came before me. Given that I was not yet born during the early twentieth century, I took for granted the accuracy of quite a bit of Ken Follett's world view while I was reading his books. I knew there were atrocities committed against the working class in the UK and America during the early periods of the books, so I assumed much of his research to be correct. I have always been very open to the idea that different political parties owed their necessity to the time and place in which they were needed.

Unfortunately by the time I had read most of the third book, I realized Follett was an extremist in his socialist, political beliefs, especially with regard to American politics. I am an Independent, and I hate reading anything so far left and so far right, when it provides no basis for reality. I would rather see both the warts and the dimples, rather than be told a fairy tale of half-truths. His viewpoint is very singular in his condemnation for all things Republican, and nothing but praise for all Democrats; even to the extent that he gives Pope John Paul II's great success in Poland to President Carter...utterly ridiculous. Follett praises by intimating Carter's dealings with the communists was "cautious", yet Reagan was supposed to take on the Kremlin during the Solidarity movement perfectly exhibits the bias in his writing.

As I was reading the book, I reflected that all of the Follett books I had ever read, prior to the Century Trilogy were period pieces from a time I had not lived; however, "Edge of Eternity" covered a place in time I know very well. His revisionism of more modern times has left me bereft of any pleasure for reading the first two books. If I can't trust his completely biased viewpoint of modern history, than how can I trust any of his research. Unless you want to read a socialist manifesto, concealed in the vein of storytelling, I would strongly recommend you not purchase any of the books in this series. As for me, I will not be buying another Follett book. It really is sad, because I would have loved to find an author who would have me explore my Welsh heritage.
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on September 26, 2017
Very engaging book..but... (more on that to follow)...
I stumbled onto this series by mistake: While shopping at a store this past summer I saw "The Edge of Eternity" (book #3 in this series). When I realized it WAS the 3rd installment of a series I decided to give it a read anyway, since I had enjoyed "Pillars of the Earth" & "World without End" some years ago. That book was very enjoyable so I decided to go for the series and read book #1 (THIS ONE).

Again I was captivated by the characters and the events of world history. There is only one thing I had a problem with...SPOILERS AHEAD...!!!!!!
SPOILERS FOLLOW:
When the closing years of WWI were covered (1918-1919) there was literally NO mention of the worst pandemic in modern history!!! He didn't write those events into his narrative fiction!! How could Mr. Follett NOT write about the 1918-1919 flue pandemic?! From online sources (and I quote): "It infected an estimated 500 MILLION (my emphasis) people- about one-third of the planet's population at the time, and killed an estimated 20-50 MILLION (!!!) victims." !!! But our characters go through Europe and the aftermath of the war, the signing of the Peace Treaty, etc., etc., without any concern. But it would have been a DEVASTATING time, to have made it through WWI only to have entire families DIE at the hands of the worst influenza outbreak in modern times. That is my only real gripe. Otherwise, it's pretty much straight forward Ken Follett: Good folks & really nasty characters who ALWAYS live to torment and remember & be vengeful another day. Fun stuff.
Would I recommend it? Sure.
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on April 30, 2016
When you finish a book you really enjoy, it's a good news, bad news situation. The good news is, you have finished the book and all your questions have been answered. The bad news is, you have finished the book and all your questions have been answered. You want the story to continue, you want to know what comes next in the lives of the characters you've come to love and sometimes, hate. The extra good news about Fall of Giants, is the story does continue, in the following book, Winter of the World. The day I finally put down Fall of Giants, I immediately dove into Winter of the World. With both parents having served in the military during WWII, I naturally have an interest in that era, but never knew much about WWI. Reading Fall of Giants was like listening to a history teacher who has a flair for story telling. He makes history come to life. Only reading the book was even better as it was told by a story teller who has a flair for history. Understanding the political decisions made by the governments from the countries on all sides of the war is one thing, but then going to the front lines and experiencing the effect of those decisions on the soldiers on both sides experiencing the brutality and hardship of the war is quite another. Follett takes you into the halls of government in England, Germany, Russia, and even the White House, as well as the muddy trenches in France. I have been a Follett fan for several years and have read many if not most of his books, and am always equally enthused.
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on April 17, 2015
Historical fiction doesn’t get much more ambitious than the Century Trilogy, Ken Follett’s attempt at telling the story of the 20th century. He does so by following five families—one American, one English, one Welsh, one German, and one Russian—over the course of several generations. Fall of Giants, the first book, focuses on World War I; Winter of the World, the sequel, covers World War II; and Edge of Eternity, the finale, spans the ‘60s to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

It’s an approach that puts history front and center; Follett’s fiction is generally a servant of the facts, rather than the other way around. And his facts are good—many of the characters are government insiders, positioned to be aware of and even involved in major events. (For example, the English patriarch is instrumental in cracking Germany’s infamous Zimmermann telegram to Mexico, which proposed an alliance between the two countries if the United States entered World War I against Germany.)

But too often, the characters are obviously playing second fiddle, their dialogue stuffed with exposition and politics inserted to explain what’s happening on the world stage. I also wish Follett had exchanged one of the British families for a non-white, non-Western perspective. (From China? India? South Africa? Decolonization, a fundamental paradigm shift in the global order, gets short shrift for a series whose title purports to chronicle landmarks of the 20th century.)

Even so, the amount of ground Follett covers is impressive, and he takes pains to create sympathetic characters for each of his chosen nationalities; some of the most admirable protagonists are Germans and Russians who resist their totalitarian governments despite horrible consequences. I also appreciated the balance in the third book, in which Follett contrasts the shortcomings of Soviet Russia against the hypocritically slow advance of civil rights in the United States.

And there’s a certain appeal to a writing style that prefers economy over eloquence. For instance, most authors would distinguish speakers by preceding their dialogue with (often irrelevant) stage directions:

Daisy shook her head. “That’s not going to work.”
Lloyd shrugged and looked at the ceiling. “So what would you suggest?”

Follett often opts for just name, verb, and colon:

Daisy said: “That’s not going to work.”
Lloyd asked: “So what would you suggest?”

No style points, but no nonsense either. The same could be said for the Century Series as a whole, which ultimately stands as a worthwhile read for anyone who likes their historical fiction heavy on the “historical.”

(For more reviews like this one, see http://nickwisseman.wix.com/home.)
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on May 1, 2016
It is understandable how many reviewers found it hard to "get into" the book. It starts slowly but builds as foundations are being formed for the characters that take you through this important time in history. I didn't know a lot about WWI aside from what I studied in college. But this book takes you into the world of most of the countries involved in WWI and why they felt the need to go to war. It also describes the shift in thinking of the citizens of many European countries that knew their government had to be changed after realizing the inequities on a greater scale during the war. Along with that, Ken Follett has devised interesting storylines and characters that make this journey even more intriguing. I am looking forward to the second book in the series. Ken Follett is fantastic writer.
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on January 10, 2018
It's definitely another good read but it was no Pillars for me. Spoiler alert: the below maintains spoilers, do not read on if you don't want to know!

There was no real drama. All the couples in the story basically live happily ever after. It's not like I need one of them to die for the story to be good, but what I loved about Pillars is that it describes the whole lives of the people in that village, and as with any life, good and bad things happen during that time. Here, there is war but apart from that, they're all good at what they do (even if being bad is what they do) and have almost only successes. Only minor things happen, but it feels like it only happens around them and they never fail. They are heros but without any kind of real issues. That just wasn't realistic to me. And then they come home and they all live happily ever after.

I enjoyed reading it, and I cared about most of the characters, which I find impressive when the story itself is not something likeable (a war, diplomatic language etc). But in my view it was mediocre where Pillars was simply outstanding excellence. But mediocre for Follet is still above average compared to anyone else.
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