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Fall of Giants

The Century Trilogy, Book 1
Narrated by: John Lee
Series: Century Trilogy, Book 1
Length: 30 hrs and 38 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (16,552 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Fall of Giants is Ken Follett's magnificent new historical epic. The first novel in The Century Trilogy, it follows the fates of five interrelated families—American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh—as they move through the world-shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution, and the struggle for women's suffrage.

Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams enters a man's world in the Welsh mining pits…. Gus Dewar, an American law student rejected in love, finds a surprising new career in Woodrow Wilson's White House…. Two orphaned Russian brothers, Grigori and Lev Peshkov, embark on radically different paths half a world apart when their plan to emigrate to America falls afoul of war, conscription, and revolution…. Billy's sister, Ethel, a housekeeper for the aristocratic Fitzherberts, takes a fateful step above her station, while Lady Maud Fitzherbert herself crosses deep into forbidden territory when she falls in love with Walter von Ulrich, a spy at the German embassy in London….

These characters and many others find their lives inextricably entangled as, in a saga of unfolding drama and intriguing complexity, Fall of Giants moves seamlessly from Washington to St. Petersburg, from the dirt and danger of a coal mine to the glittering chandeliers of a palace, from the corridors of power to the bedrooms of the mighty. As always with Ken Follett, the historical background is brilliantly researched and rendered, the action fast-moving, the characters rich in nuance and emotion. It is destined to be a new classic.

In future volumes of The Century Trilogy, subsequent generations of the same families will travel through the great events of the rest of the 20th century, changing themselves—and the century itself. With passion and the hand of a master, Follett brings us into a world we thought we knew, but now will never seem the same again.

©2010 Kevin Follett (P)2010 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

"A big Book, Follett''s hugely ambitious saga is a sweeping success. Ken Follett has hit another one out of the park with the initial installment of the hugely ambitious Century Trilogy. His fans will rejoice at the richness, complexity, historical sweep and simmering lust in a saga spanning the years 1911 to 1923." ( Newark Star Ledger)
"A dark novel, motivated by an unsparing view of human nature and a clear-eyed scrutiny of an ideal peace. It is not the least of Follett''s feats that the reader finishes this near 1000-page book intrigued and wanting more." ( Chicago Sun-Times)
"[Follett] meticulously reconstructs an era and leads us through the follies and occasional heroics of its protagonists real and imaginary. He is masterly in conveyers so much drama and historical information so vividly...Grippingly told, and readable to the end." ( New York Times Book Review)

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars


This is a wonderfully plotted and scripted story that tells the tale of the events of the early 20th Century that set the stage for all that followed over that 100-year period. Ken Follett gives us the history as told and illustrated through his great and varied group of characters. Follett's fine writing and the great narration by John Lee entertainingly bring to life a period that is often misinterpreted when looking back through that period. I can hardly wait to see where Follett's characters take us as part 2 leads us into the post-Great War decades.

48 of 49 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Loved it and learned alot.

I must admit that I was put off by the negative reviews I read. I listened to it anyway and loved it. With good characters that I cared about it is a very easy read. What I was amazed at was how little I learned in school about WW1. I think you could easily teach a course based on this book. I went to the internet constantly to learn more about incidents that were mentioned in the book. I could not put it down.

169 of 175 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Keith
  • Boca Raton, FL, United States
  • 11-07-10

Ken Follett and John Lee / Audible's Dream Team

Ken Follet is a master. His books are modern day classics. Well researched and written a joy to experience. John Lee has to be the best Narrator in the business. He could make a dryer instruction manual sound interesting. In Fall of Giants, as in his other works, Lee’s consistency and character distinction are impressive indeed. Where this complex and intertwined story line with numerous characters would have been a disaster in another’s hands in Lee’s capable grasp the story unfolds clearly and beautifully. A book to savor.

97 of 101 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great story about World War I

I had been looking for a good story that also explains how WWI came about, and found it in "Fall of Giants, Book 1". This was my first Ken Follett book, and I really enjoyed the way he tells a story and explains history at the same time. It moved right along and didn't get weighed down in elaborate descriptions that take forever to get through. Yet, he describes things well . . . I really had a good picture in my mind of the characters, scenes, etc. It is true that the main characters reconnect with one another throughout the book in ways that are somewhat unbelievable. I was forgiving of Follett for this because he is such a good storyteller. However, I do hope this feedback reaches the author so he can work on improving this one weak point. Despite this, I still give it five stars. In fact, I liked it so much that I read it twice before moving on to a new book!

63 of 66 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Really enjoyed this book

This was a good listen. I got very involved with the characters and look forward to the next book. Yes sometimes it was predictable and trite but for someone who really loves historical fiction, this was a treat.

32 of 34 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

As Good As POTE and WWE

Pillars of the Earth was the first novel I downloaded from Audible. I have re-listened to it and World Without End dozens of times and never seem to tire of them. I can see myself doing the same with Fall of Giants. There are many characters in this book because they are necessary in order to give the perspective of all the countries involved in the First World War. I feel the characters are given plenty of depth and like the other two massive tomes, this is certainly another page turner.

I imagines it would take me at least a week to listen to this book, yet I find I'm halfway through the third part after only two days. The purpose of this book is to tell a very complicated story, well enough to keep the reader wanting more. It would be so easy to get bogged down in rhetoric or politics when writing a book like this, yet Follett's writing is clear and concise, without unnecessary embellishments, descriptive enough to captivate readers with its plot and characters. Certainly worth every minute!

109 of 120 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • 9S
  • 02-04-12

Memorably Epic

Would you listen to Fall of Giants again? Why?

Yes, I will listen again because the book is filled with engaging characters, sweeping history and seamless integration of different characters.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Billy Williams because he is such a good person.

What about John Lee???s performance did you like?

I liked John Lee's ability to give life to the characters in this story.

If you could rename Fall of Giants, what would you call it?

The Rise of the Poor.

35 of 38 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • John M
  • Lafayette, CA USA
  • 11-20-10

Great History Lesson, but...

I enjoyed Fall of Giants. I thought it was a very good novel that closely followed the build-up to and prosecution of World War I from multiple perspectives. Overall it seemed, from my reading of various non-fiction historical accounts of WWI, very accurate. In fact I found this approach to be one of the most accessible ways to understand WWI that I have encountered.

I thought the multiple interweaving storylines were each interesting and unlike some other reviewers, I didn't have an issue keeping track of different characters or their motivations. In fact, if I consider the novel stand-alone, my only significant criticisms would be the lack of a clear antagonist (other than circumstances) as all the characters seemed noble in their own way and personally I would have liked to see more of the "bad" Russian brother, who seemed the most interesting of the main characters.

But that is the problem, isn't it? It is very difficult to consider this novel independently given Follet's other massive historical novels - Pillars and World's End - were just so remarkable. Fall of Giants doesn't really compare to either book, but I felt it deserved 4 stars because it is enjoyable in its own right. I understand that this is the beginning of a trilogy and perhaps the subsequent books will allow for even more interesting developments and be on par with Pillars and World's End. But even if they don't achieve those heights, they still could be very good books - and there is nothing wrong with that.

I can certainly recommend listening to this book, just keep your lofty expectations in check.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Its Worth The Credit

I believe I have read or listened to each one of Follet's many novels. In my opinion, he is one of the best storytellers of the 20th century. This novel is no exception. Well researched and rich in the history of WWI, The Fall of Giants exposed my woeful lack of knowledge of that time period and, in particular, the events leading up to as well the the aftermath of the great conflict which ultimately led to WWII. I loved every minute of this book.

The characters are well developed and engrossing. However, there are always common and extremely shallow themes one finds in virtually all of Follet's fictional works. He is obsessed with sex and always, without exception, reveals his heroes' sex lives as virile and unabashed, while giving his villains deviant and sadistic sexual drives. Also without exception, he presents religious figures, priests in particular, as either gay or pedophiles. In reality, even at the height of the sex scandals involving priests, the guilty ones made up less than 2% of the priestly population. But Follet insists on vilifying anyone and any institution that promotes righteousness.

His extremely liberal political views have yet to taint his novels, but I fear his disdain for more recent prominent conservative figures, (he called Margaret Thatcher one of the world's truly evil leaders on NPR in 1994), will make me uneasy in the final novel of this trilogy.

32 of 35 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Christine
  • Guilderland, NY, United States
  • 10-16-10

Wildly entertaining and educational too

I primarily listen to books on tape as I jog or take a long car trip. With a work like this, I am sorry when my exercise or trip is done. Mr. Follett is a master story teller, and if some complain about his politics, they are missing the point of this entertaining and gripping book. I can hardly wait to read the next in the trilogy. The reading by John Lee is a perfect complement to the book.

31 of 34 people found this review helpful