I started the first book in Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy – The Fall of Giants — in mid-October of last year. A combination of the books’ long lengths, the fact that I was listening to them on CDs borrowed from the library (which meant they took longer to get through, and I spent a good amount of time on a waiting list) all added up to my spending about six months with these characters, and their children, and their childrens’ children. And while I enjoyed every moment of it, I do feel like the third installment, Edge of Eternity, was the weakest of the three.
Edge of Eternity also spans the longest time period (and it feels like it, by the end of the damn thing). Starting in the 1960s and ending with the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, it covers the civil rights movement, the assassination of JFK (in fact, all of the presidencies during that time although the most focus is given to Kennedy and Nixon), the suffering of those in Communist countries (Russia and Germany, primarily), the struggle to keep Communism in check, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and on and on.
As in the other books, we follow the descendants of the previous novel. Some of my favorites from the first book, in fact, are present as well. Unfortunately, they’re all ancient and most of them die during the course of the book (Eth, Maude — I will love you forever). And like the previous books, our main characters tend to be in powerful political positions, and bump into each other a lot. A few also end up famous as pop icons as well, allowing Follett to bring in aspects of sixties and seventies music, movies and other pop culture.
Compared to the previous two books, Edge of Eternity seems to focus much more on the affairs and love lives of the characters, and less on the historical backgrounds. I have never seen so many accidental pregnancies in my life. I know that part of it is the times — the free love in the United States and the lack of birth control and/or education in the Communist countries — but it comes off as so many plot devices and become hilariously predictable after a point.
I really liked reading about the civil rights movement, narrated primarily by two characters deep within it. I focused on the 1960s in America when I majored in history, and I always love reading more about it. The Russian stuff dragged after a while, but mostly because Dimka and his love life made me crazy (dude — keep it in your pants and focus on your truly fascinating career for once!). Overall, there’s just so much content in these books that it’s hard to discuss every point. But Follett certainly encompasses as much history here as he possibly can.