08 January 2016

2016 Books in Review - Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett

The third book in Ken Follet's massive Century trilogy is, well, long. It has to be - it covers events from the beginning of the Cold War to the election of Barack Obama, ranging from the American Deep South to the coldest reaches of Siberia. It's everything you expect from a Follett historical novel at this point, which is at the same time enjoyable and a touch predictable, if surprisingly so.

I think what dooms Edge of Eternity to fall short of its excellent predecessors is that Follett is trying to cover too much story in one volume. The gaps which don't get addressed are larger and larger - sometimes the plot jumps ahead four years, but the feel is as if only a few short months have gone by, which leaves the reader wandering a bit, uprooted from history as the reader tries to figure out who's in power in which countries and what era is currently breaking forth.

Like all Follett novels, there's a considerable helping of sex among the characters, which honestly grows a bit tiresome after all these years. Yes, we get it, Mr. Follett - everyone likes sex and everyone has sex, and sometimes it's great and sometimes it's awful/abusive. One wonders how much more concise the novel could have been if we weren't dragged into the boudoir every 20 pages or so. It might have been an improvement, even for someone who isn't usually put off by frank depictions of what people do in their bedrooms when no one else is watching.

A far more troubling blindness/prejudice is Follett's obvious bias against Republican/Conservative politicians. That a card-carrying Democrat like myself should note and be bothered by this should tell you it's problematic. While Follett doesn't go over the top in any one circumstance, the absolute lack of redeeming characteristics in any American Republican politician, in particular, grows more and more noticeable the longer the novel goes on. No, Communism may not have fallen because Ronald Reagan called out, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" But to completely pooh-pooh the moment, and ignore almost completely Richard Nixon's work with China and Gerald Ford's entire presidency, is bothersome at the least. True, this is historical fiction, and it may have simply been an oversight or editorial choice, but it's noticeable, and that's a problem.

All this going before, it's a fun novel, if not the great conclusion to a promising trilogy as one might have hoped. I enjoy historical fiction most when I learn from it, and Follett is a master of this sort of writing. Three stars seems about right, with regrets it couldn't have been more.

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