Let me start by saying this book was very well researched and the era it describes is one of great interest. Unfortunately, it felt to me more like someone trying to liven up a non-fiction narrative of the beginning of Dynastic Egypt with a folksy story than a thrilling piece of historical fiction. The story line itself left much to be desired with very few twists and turns creating a very flat, predictable journey through the life of Egypt's first pharaoh. Many moments of potential crisis or points of climax in the book led only to an abrupt change of time or were casually dismissed and forgotten. It just seemed like there were many missed opportunities throughout the book. If you are a huge fan of Ancient Egypt, it might be worth a listen...if you're looking for a great novel of historical fiction you're probably better off spending your credit elsewhere.
Let me start by saying I am a huge Ken Follett fan. I've read most of his work including all of his epic novels (Pillars, World w/o End, and the entire Century Trilogy). I really enjoyed the first 2 books in the Century Trilogy and eagerly awaited the final installment. What I found with Edge of Eternity was shocking. His character development, of which I believe Follett is a master, was borderline nonexistent. Whereas in Pillars of the Earth (and much of his other work) I found myself almost weeping for the tragedies that befell his protagonists, in Edge of Eternity I couldn't care less. He spends much of the book covering the 1960's going into significant detail about some pretty major events and then seems to breeze through the 70's and 80's, skipping major events in a rush to get through.
The overall feeling I got from this work is that rather than providing a thought-provoking yet entertaining story, Follett wanted to use this book to push some political agenda. I have no problem with artists (especially literary ones) using their work to influence, highlight and push for social change. In fact I believe that is one of the most important and powerful uses for art. But that requires some degree of subtlety and finesse. Edge of Eternity felt like someone hitting me on the head repeatedly with a placard containing the most cliche of political catchphrases. These problems really started about 1/3 of the way through the book. I felt he did a good job drawing attention to and eliciting sympathy/outrage for the civil rights movement during the early chapters but he lost his power to hold readers' attention about 1/3 of the way through. This was most clearly highlighted by the way he talked about the various US presidents throughout the book, praising feats and ignoring shortcomings for some, while vilifying and condemning others while glossing over their positive attributes. These characterizations seemed to follow party lines pretty well. Even the way he portrayed his fictional characters followed the same formula: liberal protagonists; conservative antagonists.
One of Follett's genius attributes is his ability to surprise the reader again and again. As is so many other ways, in Edge of Eternity he fell well short of what we have come to expect from him. He used many of the same devices over and over in different parallel story lines that nothing really came as a surprise. The most repetitive device he used was the illicit love affair. I think every single character in the book ended up being involved in one or more of these and it lost its interest after the 3rd or 4th one.
John Lee's narration was great despite the story line and length. His delivery of character voices was consistent and believable throughout the performance.
Overall, I find it difficult to recommend this book. However, if you have already read the first two in the trilogy, I don't see how you can avoid it just to find out what happens to these families we all grew so attached to in the first two installments. If you've never read a Follett book, PLEASE do not start with this one. You will be robbing yourself of a truly rewarding experience that normally comes with most of his other work.
This second and final book in Wouk's series is easily as engrossing and mesmerizing as the first. With detailed character development, some twists you expect, others you don't, it was hard to stop listening. There is so much that has already been said about this novel that I doubt I could add anything of value. What I would like to comment on is the narration. I think I'd enjoy listening to Kevin Pariseau read the phone book. This was by far the best narration in an audiobook I have ever heard. The voices he used for each of the characters was magnificent without ever becoming cheesy and how he kept track of all them and kept them separate, I have no idea. His narration helps the listener fall into an ease of experience as if you were actually there talking to and interacting with characters heroic and villainous alike. I truly have never been more impressed with an audiobook performance and could not rate this story or narration as high as it deserves. Simply outstanding.
There is so much that has already been said about this piece that I don't think I can add anything of real substance. It is extremely well researched, enthralling and just enjoyable to listen to. From the writing to the performance I give this an A+.
Having read Pillars many years ago, I knew what to expect from this masterpiece by Follett. I can say, without hesitation, that the story is just as engrossing in audiobook form and John Lee does an excellent job narrating. To be honest, I felt myself drawn into the story so much that I forgot to really hear the narrator at all. I can't recommend this book highly enough. It is truly one of my favorites of all time and the audio version is definitely worth spending a credit.
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