It is a formula I am naturally drawn to. A young smart protagonist (or two) is up against the establishment with every reason to fail. Add in a rich historical context with a hit of actual facts and I am hooked. Ken Follett delivers a satisfying ride through the war to end all wars in the Fall of Giants. I will leave the literary criticism to the experts at the New York Times and the Washington Post who have done an able job summarizing the story and pointing out the shortfalls of the author.
Here are a few notes on what I took away from the book:
- There were so many characters losing their virginity that I lost count. I suppose this could be a metaphor about the nobles losing their innocence -- but sacrificing virgins to the dragon is likely a better parallel. I don't remember there being so much sweaty smut in Pillars of the Earth or World Without End. It makes me wonder if the author is compensating for something.
- In Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, the guilds (labor unions) were standing in the way of progress, in this book the labor unions save the day. This is an interesting switch.
- The idea that big changes cook for a long time before they surprise their victims is quite applicable to our world today.
- There is an Ayn Randian thread that runs through these three books that I cannot quite put my finger on. Clearly Ayn Rand would not have been a fan of the labor unions, but Billy, Ethel, Merthin, Caris, Jack and Aliena all have the genes of Howard Roark.
In reviewing Ken Follett's Wikipedia page today I realize that he has written an entire shelf of books since Pillars that I have never heard of. I am going to have to check those out. Hopefully it will take him a year or two to write the next 1,000 pages of this trilogy.
One other thing. I listened to this book as an audiobook from Audible. The narration by John Lee was incredible.