Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Edge of tomorrow, Ken Follett

This is the third and final - and worst - installation of the "Century Trilogy" by Ken Follett. I listened to the audiobook, read with too much pomp and too little warmth by the actor, as if he was reading the news.

The book is good until about half way through, but the second part turns into a YA novel and it doesn't work as well.

Be warned: there is no real, 360 degrees history here. Most of it is over-simplified, cartoonish history, as seen through left-leaning eyes.

Yes, I enjoyed flashing through the Cold War period, while following the descendants of the five families that readers have been following since the first book, Fall of Giants, set against the background of WWI. Geographies included are, again, mainly the US, Russia, Germany and the UK.

But ... this is definitely NOT a book I would recommend. It was ok to listen to, and it kept me company in my walks or car trips. But, unlike the first and second book, this third one has some very, very big issues.

THE ONLY GOOD THING: the plot is constantly gripping, and it drives you forward. Ken Follett is a master at that. He is a plot-driven writer. It's not that he doesn't write well, it's that he cares mostly about the story. His language is only a tool. He said that he wants his language to be like a "glass pane", that you can clearly see through to the story, while when a writer uses a richer or flowery language, the glass pane is distracting the reader from the story. His favorite writers are Ian Fleming, Stephen King and the likes. In short, writers of fast-paced, action-packed stories. In fact, action scenes are where Follett really excels.

BAD: the history is accurate, but it is reported with an awfully simplistic, politically charged, stereotypical approach. What are the stereotypes about the Cuba crisis? Here you find them all. What are the stereotypes about the Watergate scandal? Here you find them all. Did Kennedy sleep around and was gossiped to love rubber ducks in his bathtub? Check and check, sleeping around and rubber ducks.

(in line with being stereotypical, Follett never mentions the heavy womanizing of Martin Luther King. Because, you know, that's something you just don't do).

Not only Follett puts his own political agenda in the novel (especially in the second part of the book), he also does it so superficially, with the same high-school level of historic depth you would get from a drunk in a pub, telling you how Reagan was just a murderer and Nixon was nothing but a crook.

Trust me, you will find much more historical insight in the movie Forrest Gump.

Everything is explained with the childishness of a cartoon. Even worse, it sounds like Follett's opinions are actually built on this type of cartoonish reconstruction of the events.

The WORST thing of Edge of Eternity is that, while typically good historic fiction helps you get in the skin of the people who really lived in a specific time, in this book the characters are there to make only high-school history come alive. They are not real people, they are puppets in the hands of a writer (and his many ghost writers) who seems to base his political opinions on a slim book of "World History".

Real history is the real victim of this book. It is completely forgotten.

BAD: Republicans and conservatives in general have zero positive traits. They are literally the baddies in this book. Aside from the other left-leaning narratives that Follett fully embraces, he reaches his peak when he presents the end of Communism purely as a spontaneous combustion, while explicitly describing the US and CIA foreign policy efforts during the Cold War as completely useless, as having no effect whatsoever on the fall of Communism. Therefore, every US foreign policy operation was totally stupid and worthless. Ugh!! *pukes* Is it too much to ask for some middle ground where someone sees things in a more balanced way? The problem is that many teenagers will read Follett's own lefty narrative as if it was the only way to interpret the facts of the 20th century.

BAD: every character is driven by ideals, and almost no one by self interest. Obviously, that takes a lot away from the sense of realism. Let's just say the characters never become real, not once. They are all symbols or tools Follett uses to make his own points, or at best they are the embodiments of wikipedia bullet points about the Cold War period.

He also seems to have a real soft spot for female characters who are self-righteous and aggressively moralizing.

BAD: every single scene ends up in graphic, meticulously described sex. One moment a character is discussing the positives and negatives of the Polish unions, one second later he turns into a porn actor, performing acts of libido on a female journalist as if there was no tomorrow. This is such a killer to the elegance of the overall work. Clearly a commercial decision, to sell to the lusty teens who enjoy that crap, but hey, Follett, did you forget that this really lowers the level of the book to the YA level? No, worse: it's like having the band Kiss jump on stage every 15 minutes while you're seeing a serious well-played drama, and having them sing one of their loud songs, red tongues sticking out and all. Real trash.

Mr Follett, you are part of the 1% as you are already worth 45 million dollars, do you seriously need to use these trashy tricks at the expense of the book's style and elegance? Your name is today a 35 people company ... did none of these 35 ask you: "Are you sure you want to ruin this book with all those graphic sex scenes?". The only reason I can think of is, more sales, more money. I find it really sad.

But most of all, I wish you had had more respect for history, and not made it into a cartoon, parroting out the lefty version of the Cold War era

No comments:

Post a Comment