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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 June 22, 2013
Ken Follett is an amazing writer. I originally came to know him because of his Pillars of the Earth book, and have read a few others. The century Trilogy is holding my attention very well, and is another amazing piece of writing. This is more recent history if you will, and is interesting because it intersperses a fictional story set in a time where the historical facts run along side, making you feel as if it were actually a true account from the time. Fans of television shows like Downton Abbey, or any movie/story set in the early 20th century may enjoy this book. It has enough historical reference points within to read almost like a memoir or biography, but is wide reaching enough for those of us that like stories with meat on their bones. I tore through this fairly monster sized book over just a couple days sitting on the beach, and literally could not put it down. The second in the series has proven to be just as entertaining.
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on September 27, 2017
An interesting work of historical fiction with a nice mix of male and female protagonists. I thought that the scenes involving the characters having sex were very awkwardly written, so much so that I would find myself tempted to give up on the book. The author places characters at the heart of significant world events in the time leading up to and throughout the First World War. Most of the book takes place on various home fronts but portions do address the battles, particularly the Somme. But it is really more focused on the political, as many of his characters are near world leaders. I don’t have the sad feeling I get when I leave a great book, but I’m not sorry I took the time to read this.
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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 July 19, 2017
This book is very well written. It is historic fiction and tells the story from the viewpoint of several different families. some of which interact in the book. It is at the time of the First World War. It deals with politics, war, work and passion. I highly recommend it but be prepared for the length.
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on August 7, 2017
The details in this book are amazing, if you're a history buff you will love this novel. I liked everything about this novel except for when characters would talk about politics in depth amongst themselves, then I would just skip those pages. I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the trilogy.
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on July 1, 2014
I normally do not read novels; fiction is not my thing. I do enjoy reading history and philosophy and recently have been reading about the events leading up to WW I. Of course, the history books focus on the lives of the Monarchs and the other major players that created the events that make history. I feel that I understand the personalities and motivating forces that influenced Kaiser Wilhelm, Tzar Nicholas and King George as well as the powerful men who were part of their story.

Fall of Giants presents a view of that period from the perspective of the people who lived through it; the 'little' people who struggled, suffered and died for the actions of the rich and powerful. Ken Follett captured all the key moments but put us there at ground level, not looking down from an objective perspective as if it were some sort of game that the power elite were playing. For the first time, I felt the emotions of the early 1900's.

Since it is a novel and is intended to entertain as much as inform, there is an ample dose of sexuality and personal trauma to give it somewhat of a 'soap opera' feel at times. However, those emotional passages are part of the human experience. I suppose it is necessary to give the book's characters the full range of emotions to understand the impact on the lives of the people who are affected by the decisions of their leaders.

When I compare the feelings and social currents of that historical period to what is evident in the world of today, it sadly appears that we humans have learned little from our past mistakes - except that governments are more adept at lying to the people and the people are less involved in the actions of their governments. It seems inevitable that we will repeat the mistakes of the past.
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on July 10, 2015
I certainly enjoyed it. It is reasonably well researched, although there are some historical errors. A lot of the information was correct and the story has quite a wide reach. There was small amount of gratuitous sex -- I guess that keeps it interesting for some.

Most of the errors revolve around the Bolsheviks and Lenin. For example, Follett has a scene in 1923 where internal critics of the Communist Party in Russia are taken out and shot -- never would have happened that early. At that point, you could be an oppositionist in the party without risking life and limb -- in fact, you most likely would not have been expelled from the party, much less shot. Later in the 20s as the regime became more repressive and the Stalinist Thermidor took hold, party expulsion and exile became possible. It was in the 30s when the killing of Communists became the norm. And the whole thing about Lenin accepting German money has long been known to be a fabrication of the Provisional Government. All sides were accused of being "German Agents" during 1917 in Russia. Further, Lenin was no bully -- he lost votes in the CC on many occasions -- no one was removed from their posts. If he disagreed with your position he would rip you to shreds -- but would still work closely with people he had fought with at one point (e.g., Zinoviev, Kamenev, Trotsky).
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on January 31, 2015
Interesting, in depth history of the milieu of W.W. I from multiple view points. But the story line demands frequent suspension of disbelief. The central characters repeatedly "bump into each other" across thousands of miles and among millions of people. The characters for the most part are well drawn and may linger in your thoughts after you've finished the book. If you are a fan of historical romance, you will enjoy The Fall of Giants. I found sections of it fascinating, in spite of its flaws. Some aspects of the book deserve 5 stars, but I'm only giving in three because the various love stories are too sentimental and plot to fantastic for my taste.
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on September 15, 2016
Ken Follett does a great a great job bringing history to life, and in my opinion, one of the better authors to do so. While it is historical fiction, the important events are factual so my memory was refreshed or I learned something new. Of course history is not always pretty and many parts of the book are depressing as stories of man's inhumanity to man prevail. What is also depressing as I fast forward to the present, is how little we have learned or changed from past behaviors. We still have wars and we still have those, whether they wear a business suit or are in politics or are "ordinary" citizens, who believe they are superior to others and mistreat their "inferiors." I found the book to be an easy and fast read and am looking forward to reading the second book in this trilogy.
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