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Monday, August 11, 2008

World Without End


Many years ago, I read Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth... I had just finished reading The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Aeul and I was hungry for another sweeping epic set in our past (sexy bits optional. I was actually growing weary of all the sex bits in Aeul's stuff, but I guess there wasn't much to do back in prehistoric times, eh?).
Most of my junior high and high school years were spent with my nose in a book whenever I got the chance and rather than do my usual (carry around two to three novels at a time, switching from one to the next when I felt more in the mood for the genre of one over another), I dedicated my whole attention to its medieval majesty. I adored it. My English teacher at the time, Mrs. Smith, asked to borrow it and eventually returned it (in poorer condition then when I gave it to her, I might add) and playfully scolded me for reading a book that had naughty bits in it. She was never one to make jokes, so I suddenly felt pretty damn cool in her eyes.


Anyway, I perused other Follett titles and was disappointed to see he'd not written anything else quite like it, though I do fully intend on reading some of his other stuff some day, I hungered for yet more historical hijinks and havoc. And so he wrote World Without End. And there was much rejoicing. I just finished reading it the other day and I'm still hungry for more.


While it may bore some that he tends to go into tremendous detail when describing aspects of medieval architecture and the fundamentals of stone masonry or other artisan crafts of the time, I indulged his efforts to show just how much homework he'd obviously done and wanted to show off.


It's no wonder these two novels are so enormous, he really does create a whole world in the two of them and fleshes out so many wonderful characters that it would be a crime to cut any of them out for the sake of brevity.


For a sci-fi nerd, I really do adore my historical fiction novels... If any of you have ones to reccommend, please do. I'm so out of the loop nowadays on what books are available I hate to think how many great ones I'm missing out on.

12 comments:

Marvin the Martian said...

Ken Follett is a great writer, I think. I wasn't thrilled with "Jackdaws" but I enjoyed "Triple" and "The Key to Rebecca" and such.

I'm not big on historical fiction but sometimes I like alternate histories like "The Guns of the South," where South Africa sends weapons back in time to help the Confederacy win the Civil War.

programmer craig said...

The Pillars of the Earth was a great book! Thanks for the tip, adding this to my shopping list for next Amazon visit :)

Chris said...

I second Guns of the South.

I picked it up just based on the cover "Robert E. Lee holding an AK-47????" and was surprised at how good it was. I couldn't put it down.

Harry Turtledove certainly did his research for that novel which is told through the eyes of several historical figures.

Broke Saudi said...

Gore Vidal's Creation, man was that a great book. If I remember correctly, it's about a Persian ambassodor's (who served under Xerxes) recollection of various events during his life. There are so many historical characters crammed into this book, making it impossible to take it all in with one reading...which is a plus.

Another book I'll recommend is the one I'm currently reading (thanks to a friend's recommendation), Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. It's a great read so far, and Ayn Rand is a fucking genius.

Chris said...

Atlas Shrugged is the most overrated book ever unless you're unrealistic enough to subscribe to objectivism and can put up with endless lectures and mindless dialog on the same topic for over 1100 pages.

If I was forced to read it again I'd ask to be waterboarded instead. It wouldn't last as long.

*shudder*

humble simpleton said...

Do you people knowThe Egyptian?

Gila said...

Connie Willis. History, sci-fi and everything all in one. And a phenomenal writer.

Chris said...

@Humble Simpleton

I hadn't heard of that book but it looks pretty damn good.

To the library!

Eight said...

Have you read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander yet? Get 200 pages into the first book, and you're done for. Lengthy page-turner, well researched but not tiresome. And plenty sexy bits once it gets going.

Anonymous said...

Ever try The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Pennan? Set during the Wars of the Roses.

Tijl said...

I didn't know "The Pillars of the Earth" until you wrote this post. But your enthusiasm convinced me to order a copy and I absolutely loved it! Now I have to choose between continuing where I left off in the Roma Sub Rosa Series, or reading "World without end" first. Hmm, a hard choice. But I guess I'll catch up some sleep first. Obsessive reading is bad for your health :-)

Thank's for the tip. I'll never see gothic cathedrals in quite the same way (I live in Flanders, so I see them quite often).

TeacherLady said...

Ooh wonderful! I feel like I've shared something lovely with a stranger! If we have such similar tastes in books, please feel free to suggest books to me too! I may not have the time right now, but hopefully in the near future...