Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy: Good Books, Bad Sequels

“Good Books, Bad Sequels” was the first post I ever wrote about books. It was the way in which I expressed my disappointment upon reading the second book of Ken Follett’s trilogy The Century, Winter of the World. Having read my previous thoughts, I can assure you that my opinion hasn’t changed that much.

Fall of Giants (The Century, #1)

This books narrates the first quarter of the Twentieth Century. Since there are many protagonists, every historical event is told from a different point of view.

Follett has a lot of good characters, and he really manages to sum up some of the most important movements of the time in an interesting, entertaining way. It’s not a history book, it’s a well-written story about a group of people from all over the world who struggle to survive in difficult times.

All characters are somehow connected, and they all meet one another at some point during their lives. Follett also includes some real-life people -like King George V, president Woodrow Wilson, Winston Churchill, etc.- in a very subtle, fun way.

I really enjoyed this book and I recommend it to all those who enjoy historical novels and to those who want to be entertained for quite a while; this book is, after all, over a thousand pages long.

Winter of the World (The Century, #2)

Winter of the World is the second part of his Century Trilogy. This time, the kids of the last book’s protagonists are the central characters. The main conflict: World War Two.

The formula is the same: a bunch of characters in a bunch of different countries have to overcome the odds of wartime and do their best to leave their mark in history.

One may think that something as huge as the Second World War would be enough to fill a thousand-pages-book without anyone forcing the plot. Well, one may be wrong.

This time, war, woman’s rights, racial discrimination and political games are not enough for the author’s taste, so he brings in one thing that we were not missing: love issues. A love triangle, a forbidden love due to racial differences, a forbidden love due to ideology differences, a difficult love due to misunderstandings, a tragic love due to death of a character, and the list goes on and on. It felt as if I had thrown my historical novel out of the window, to read all works of Nicholas Sparks cramped into one large book instead.

Also, for an unknown reason, the author decided it would be a good idea to kill a character every hundred pages. He started ‘relocating’ his characters just to kill them off. I mean, I know it’s wartime, but do we really need to move the characters to locations that don’t even make sense, just to give them something to do and ultimately kill them? They were already in key zones, such as Berlin, London, Moscow and Washington DC. By the third time he moved a family to another place for no reason at all, I already knew who was going to die and how.

I guess nothing shakes up a novel like multiple clandestine sexual encounters and a bunch of random deaths.

It was definitely not as good as Fall of Giants. I would only recommend it to fans of Follett, and to those who are more into romantic novels.

Edge of Eternity (The Century, #3)

Of this book I only read the Amazon preview, which consists of four chapters. This time, a love triangle was teased in less than fifteen pages. ‘I’ll pretend that I enjoy love triangles and I’ll keep reading’, I said to myself, and so I did. It felt like something I had already read, but it wasn’t too bad, actually, and I thought maybe I’d give it a try.

That is, until I read the reviews from other readers. Even readers who love Follett and loved the first two books of the trilogy agreed on the same things:

  1. It has a good start, with good characters, but as the book progresses, the plot begins to weaken.
  2. Follett’s personal political opinion is so transparent throughout this novel, that it almost feels like propaganda.
  3. Many beloved characters from previous books disappear almost completely and the new ones aren’t as interesting or well-developed, some even feel cartoonish.
  4. There are too many unnecessary sex scenes that feel rather clumsy. They don’t add anything to the plot, and it is kind of annoying that every single character cheats on their special someone at one point or another.
  5. The book in general feels as if it had been written by someone else.

Maybe this year I’ll give it a try and read it. If I do, you can count on my review. By the way, I read the first two in German, and the translation is very, very good.