A Review of 'The Edge of Eternity’ by Ken Follett
I recently finished reading Ken Follett’s epic novel, “The Edge of Eternity,” which spans almost 1,100 pages. The book continues the story of the families we met in the first two parts of the “Century Trilogy” and weaves a brilliant tapestry of events and people, bringing alive the Cold War era.
Beginning in 1961, almost two decades after the end of World War II, the novel depicts a post-war Britannia that is no longer the master of the high seas. The United States and the USSR have taken control of the world affairs and are engaging in a nuclear-armed race to assert dominance over the world without engaging in another winner-takes-all battle like the previous two world wars.
Both superpowers pull strings behind many regimes across the world and attempt to prop up governments that support their cause. The two mortal enemies employ subterfuge, deceit, lies, and direct military intervention in satellite states to prop up a government that would be subservient either to Moscow or to Washington DC.
Despite their bravado all over the world, both countries are also on the brink of massive civil unrest internally. For the Americans, the issue of civil rights is the thorn in their side, while for the Communists, it is freedom and dissent. Both countries make progress in addressing their respective problems, but the reality is not always as it seems.
One of my favorite things about this book is the presence of strong characters who do not shy away from asserting their point of view. Dimitri and Natalia do so clandestinely in the Soviet Politburo, while George Jakes is able to defy his superiors a little more openly while working for the department of justice under Bobby Kennedy.
When I started reading the book, I was worried that it would be the usual nonsense of painting one side black and the other white. However, Ken Follett does call a spade a spade without mincing words. He does a wonderful job of calling out the American injustices against the people of Korea and Vietnam during the wars and also their handling of the Lebanese crisis. He also points out the glaring flaws of Communist ideology and the failure of the Soviet Union to decentralize its decisions in time and avoiding ruin. However, one persistent complaint I have with Ken Follett is that he willfully ignores the story of the world as perceived by South Asians. I find it disheartening that he refuses to acknowledge the non-alignment movement that was taking shape in India around the 60s. Moreover, there is no mention of the Afghanistan front of the Cold War, which eventually led to the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the root cause of many problems we see in the Middle East today. Overall, despite doing a very good job of it, I see that the stories here are centered around the immediate effects of the Cold War and are mostly Eurocentric and America-centric.
In conclusion, Ken Follett’s “The Edge of Eternity” is a fantastic work of historical fiction. It teaches readers about the Cold War era through its gripping storytelling and vivid character development. While the book is not without flaws, including a lack of representation of South Asian perspectives and an omission of important events in the Middle East, it remains one of my favorite novels in the genre.
Tags: book, book review, bookreview, Ken Follett, Edge of Eternity, cold war, Russia, USSR, USA, Kennedy, Gorbachev, UK, Great Britain, post colonial world