Monday, October 25, 2010


I consider myself very close to my godmother. She's also my aunt, which helps, but mostly because she's awesome. She sends the funniest birthday cards and always has plenty of wine ready for visits and knows how to throw a damn good party. She's also been a life-long advocate for my voracious appetite for books. For as long as I can remember, I've been receiving a steady stream of books from her for holidays and birthdays. I never know what I'm going to get, but it's always good. So a few years ago when I got Ken Follett's "Pillars of the Earth" and "World Without End" for Christmas, I was excited. These books were massively huge, and because they were coming from my aunt, they were just about guaranteed to be great reads. Everyone in the room ooed and ahhed and commented about how these were some of their own favorite books. These were worldwide classics. These would be good. And this is the story about how I was dead wrong.

A few days later I cracked open "Pillars of the Earth." My fingers tingled with new book anticipation. The story started out lukewarm for me. But as the pages wore on, my spirits began to falter. By the time I was half way through, I hated it. HATED. IT. THIS was a worldwide classic? THIS was everyone's favorite book? THIS?

The real problem here though, is once I start reading a book, I can't stop. Kind of like how B and I can't turn away from Cougar Town. I have to go through with it and finish it. Right until the bitter end. I have never abandoned a book. I'm like the Marines Corps of books. Never leave a man book behind. It's a sick compulsion. And even worse, "Pillars of the Earth" is just about a babillion pages long. That bitch is longer than the Bible.

And it's just about as engaging as watching my dog lick his own ass. Every night before bed I would pick up that book before bed and power through. And every night I would fall asleep mid-sentence. The next night I'd pick up where I left off on the page and have no idea what was going on because I'd zoned out three pages before the previous night. How was I ever going to finish this goddamned book if I had to re-read the same five pages every single night just to figure out what in the hell was going on?!

Worst of all? Ken Follett is a shitty writer. Now, I'm a not saying that because I'm not a shitty writer, but I don't make any money. There is no vacation home and sports car waiting for me to claim them every time I fart out a post here. I do it because I love talking about myself you. You're welcome. Therefore I'm allowed to be shitty. Ken Follett is not. I'm pretty sure there were girls in my tenth grade English Lit class with Mrs. Roby who could write a more graceful sentence then this baboon. How about some poetry in those words, Kenneth?! You're a professional author. IMPRESS ME WITH YOUR WORDS.

When I finally finished "Pillars of the Earth" I slammed the book down triumphantly and let out a woop. I was free from Ken Follett's 16-fucking-page description of a godammned bear fight! I didn't have to read about peasant sex any more! To cleanse myself, I gobbled up any and every book set in the present day I could get my hands on. No more pock-faced knights and nasty earls for me! No more.

Time went by and the second book, "World Without End" sat collecting dust on my bookshelf. I was NOT going to put myself through that again. I'd rather french kiss my dog every night than have to go to bed with Ken Follett for another six months. When my mom was visiting and looking for something to read, I pushed "World Without End" into her hands.

"Have you read this yet?" she asked.

"No, but you can take it."

"Well, I don't want to take it if you haven't read it yet. I'll wait until you read it."

"NO. Just take it. That'll take years."

"Do you think I'll like it?"

"No. Yes. Probably not. You should just take it."

So she did. Months went by and I never heard about it. Then while down the shore this summer, I read all the books I brought faster than I had anticipated. I had a full four days left of beach reading with nothing to read. So I scoured the beach house for something to hold me over for the next few days. But I'd read everything in sight. And then my mom pulled it out.

"You said you never read this one, right?"

And then there I was, sitting on the goddamned beach with goddamned Ken Follett and goddamned "World Without End." GODDAMNIT.

That was three months ago. It's now the end of October and I am STILL reading that book. Every night before I go to bed I get to spend some time with good ol' Ken the fucking asshole Follett. And this book? Is even worse than the first. The writing is still shitty, the story goes on forever, and to top it all off, I'm officially convinced that Ken Follett is a he-man woman hater.

Hear me out. This is about to get heavy, but Ken Follett loves raping all of his women characters. It happened a couple times in "Pillars" but I don't think there's been a woman in "World Without End" who hasn't either been raped or have been in danger of being raped at least once. BUT WAIT, I'm not even done. Ready for this? In this book, the women like it. THAT'S RIGHT, ERRBODY. They're always "ashamed" when the tinglies start a'coming mid-rape. [Ed note: I'm rull, RULL sorry for that last sentence. I feel like I need to go wash my eyeballs now.] That's just fucked up. I mean, really. I can't believe I even have to write about this, but that's what happens when you decide to write a blog post before the sun even rises on a Monday morning. You end up talking about the peasants gettin' the tinglies. Egh. Also? Lesbian nuns. Because, really? REALLY? That's all I'm gonna say about that.

To be honest, I don't think I would have disliked these novels nearly as much if half the world hadn't told me that they were their favorite books before I started. These? Really? But every night I slog on. Every night I heft up that Bible-length book and rest it on my chest because it's too much of an bicep workout to hold. And I realized recently that again, just like Cougar Town, I love to hate it. Every night I flip open the book and proclaim, "welp only 893 pages to go. Almost done." Whenever B asks me what part I'm at, I tell him "the part right after that girl got raped and now that guy is building things and everyone is dying of the plague," and no matter what page I'm on, it's a pretty accurate description. Do you know how many pages there are in "World Without End?" 1024. In 1024 pages, girls get raped, the man builds things and everyone dies of the plague. THE END.



Bridget said...

steve LOVES those books. i have never given them a chance and after reading this, i never will.

virginia said...

you had to go there with the cougar town comment didnt you...

Bill said...

On the not to read list. I'll admit I abandoned two books in my life. I keep meaning to try both again. Moby Dick was too long when I was in high school, and Walden just sucked.

Bridget said...

@ Bridget Yeah, Billy really enjoys them too. Maybe it's a guy thing? Or an idiot thing. Could go either way.


@Bill These are far, far too long to not enjoy them. Unless peasant sex is your thing?

Becky Mochaface said...

I read Pillars of the Earth. While I enjoyed it, I would never call it my favorite books. It doesn't even come close to making the top 20 list. I was contemplating reading World Without End but now I think I'll stick to my original plan for punishment of War and Peace. At least then I'll have something to brag about.

Hippo Brigade said...

Ken Follett sounds like a major douche.

Emily said...

I just finished Pillars last night... and LOVED it!! Please mail me World Without End, I will gladly take it off of your hands.

Also, if you were gonna write a post criticising Ken Follett for being verbose, you could'a kept it a bit shorter.... jjjuuuust kiddinggg.

rory said...

Don't sugar coat it, baby.
I'm guessin' you didn't like it?
I read it years ago and came away with, um, whatever, not good, not bad, just lots of words stretching into a really long book.
Hey, thanks for Hollerado, though- I effing LOVE Hard Love.

Anonymous said...

This is the best post ever. I am a huge reader, but I've never read Follett, and now I never ever will.

--Amanda (for some reason, i can't post comments with my google id)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up, I was about to buy a bunch of his books since they're so popular and there was a good deal online.

Hilarious review btw.

Anonymous said...

I dug pillars but wwe was like from another planet. I think he used a ghost writer just so he could crank another money maker out. Clearly he was paid by the word and then he wrapped the whole thing up in the end in like the last 12 pages. I hate that!!! Its like follet just babbled on for a 1000 pages and then figured that's long enough. Time for the happy ending . Such a cop out. Anyone who likes WWE and says its as good as pillars is a Moron and should be watching soaps and not reading books. The dialogue was perhaps the most pathetic cop out. He didn't even try to make it beliveable as middle ages speak. It read like a Archie comic book. Super dissapointing! If you are intelligent and liked pillars don't read world without end. If you are a dumbass and liked pillars go ahead with WWE. It will probably be just as enjoyable cause you are too stupid to notice the difference. Clearly that's the target audience.

Lorraine said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Ken Follett writes tripe for the masses - a dumbed down version of literature. I've never felt more insulted by a writer before or since reading POE.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Absolutely. The Key to Rebecca is the worst book I've read in my life. Ken Follett sucks.

Anonymous said...

I googled "Ken Follett is an asshole" and your column came up. I am so pissed I started reading Edge of Eternity-and even more pissed that I keep going back to see where the hell it's going. He copies things straight from Wikipedia and flat out makes stuff up under the pretext it is "history". I just need to throw it out. Worse book I have ever read.

Anonymous said...

I was excited to read a book about building cathedrals... I'm into that kind of thing. The first third of the book was not bad and while it wasn't great literature I found it interesting. There were moments that bothered me, like every description of the beautiful women and how everyone just could not get over how ugly that hamleigh woman was. Talk about male gaze. But then I got to the rape scene and that was the last straw. Ugh I do not need to read a book from the perspective of a man's rape fantasy. Disgusting. Can't even continue.

Unknown said...

Awesome review! My husband and I just finished pillars of the earth on cd (and it was even abridged, no 16 page bear fight for us) It was terrible. In the beginning, I was at least interested in what happened to the characters, but by the middle, it was more a firm of self torture to keep listening to this shitty, shitty writing. Don't even get me started on the "rhythmic" peasant sex- barf; and is that word nessecary to use in every sex scene? So glad we didn't get the world without end too, think I would have crashed my car rather than subject myself to listening about the girls getting the tingles while they are getting raped. Nice, real nice.
Anyway I came across your post by googling "ken follet shit writer? " your post was the perfect pick me up after finishing that. Well done. Thanks.

DH Murphy said...

This. This this this this this. I was also told Pillars was amazing. I am also a completionist. I did put the book down, never to be read again, about a third of the way through and experienced an exhilarating lightness (you should try it, with World Without End... it's hard for about a day and then it gets easy). I did, however, get sucked back in.

Now I'm done, I'm licking my wounds, and taking comfort in the vast sea of Follett disgust out there on the web. I'm dumbfounded by the even vaster sea of Follett leg-humping, Oprah and all. AND MY OWN FRIENDS. MY SCHOOL TEACHERS. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?

The real crime is the writing. It is the worst kind of hack writing. The running checklist of whether or not a character is "glad" at the moment. The constant reminders of things that have happened ("I know!" I shout at the book. "I was there! I was there when it happened three pages ago!"). The paragraph by paragraph exhaustive explanations of thoughts, feelings, and intentions that dismantle any attempt at storytelling...

Layer on top of this the frequent voyeuristic rape, the subversion of all blossoming love with sex (Protip: if a woman confesses that the reason she has kept you at a distance because she was violently assaulted as a teenager, don't respond by immediately trying to seduce her. This won't work, outside Pillars of the Earth.) Along with the magical way three people in medieval Europe "invent" the future (or worse, invent the obvious) to solve their problems.

The book's only redeeming quality is that "grippingness" people cite. This is the same clumsily deployed tactic of setting up a hero, a villain, subjecting the hero to injustice, the villain cheating and getting away with it, and eventual resolution that has kept professional wrestling in business. The difference is, wrestling is over in 2 hours and sometimes features men jumping off of high places in exciting fashion.

Thank you for your review. Reading it makes me feel better. Put down World Without End and walk away! In a few days, the tug will disappear and you'll be "glad".

BTW, I found this with the search terms "is ken follett the worst author ever".

Matt said...

These are 2 of my favourite books of all time, you are very wrong and probably American.

Anonymous said...

100% agreed... I had quite liked the Fall of Giants, despite over simplistic characters (common Follet ! No one is ever so black or so white) and quite stupid happy end for all...

Therefore, I took the chance and borrowed WWE from a friend: after 400 pages, I went from surprised to bored to furious to really shocked ! And I am stopping there.

- the story is made sooooo long by constant repetitions... please Follet consider your reader an intelligent being and stop explaining what you have already detailed few pages before !!!
If the goal is to cross the 1000 pages, at least make it interesting... but I guess not everyone can be a Tolstoi or Zola... and to be come one you.would need to bring some depth to your characters !

- the characters are either good or bad, with no shade whatsoever.
All the actions of a bad character will be bad or stupid. On the contrary, the good character will all together: be the smartest in business, the finest negociator, the feminist sharing the reader's views on how couple life should be lived (6 centuries before these views became common), the agnostic giving respect but taking distances with religion in a way that again looks more XXI century than XIII, the angel in case of crisis saving lives and leading troops, the futurist defending the engineering progresses alone against bad and greedy obscurantists,the good girl making friend and defending other girl from completely different and inferior background, the respectful daughter, the loving foregiving and righteous girlfriend, the philosopher ready to discuss any interesting item of life, the poor orphan weeping her mother, the feminist speaking alone to defend women accused of being witches,...and the list goes on. I did not know life was as easy as a Hollywood blockbuster...

- and finaly:the sex scenes!!!! They really seem to show that Follet does not have any understanding on how the body of women actually works... it is interesting to see that in his books women seem to find orgasm, at the exact same time as their partner, in sex which includes only penetration and ill treating their breast... Funny never worked with me??!!! And you only need to discuss with few women to understand that it does not work with many of them either!
And then come rape scenes. Really, victim finding pleasure in it ?
Either Follet has actually worked with rape victims to understand how this could be possible... in that case, why choose to focus on these kinds of rape scenes ? Do we really need this in litterature,without the begining of an analysis of the reasons why it can be there...
Either (and I would tend to believe it is more the case) this come directly out of Follet's imagination, and I cannot but be quite disgusted at this man explaining how women find pleasure in the most painful moments of their lives...

Anonymous said...

Follet books = "Forrest Gump meets Deus Ex for an evening of historical rape fantasies." I liked Pillars of the Earth when it came out because it was a refreshing style back in the late 80's. It doesn't stand up to the test of time and all of Follet's subsequent historical novels have followed the same cheesy formula.

He relies too much on convenience, coincidence, and perverted shock scenes rather then character development and valuable content. He has his moments of brilliance but they always deteriorate into into the same bland formula of writing he is seemingly loved for.

Follet just churns out assembly line trash these days and his followers scoop it up. Sex, love, history, violence....something for everyone and none of it is very deep.

jpallen said...

Oh My God - Thank you!!. I hate Ken Follett's books too. I'm so tired of hearing how marvelous his monstrously long, trite, gratuitously rape filled books are. If I see one more spectacular review of Pillars of the Earth, I'll give up reading forever. I got 1/4 the way through the book, and because I'm a "completionist" too, I started reading a page or two in each chapter until I finished it and could finally drop it off at Goodwill for some other unsuspecting soul willing to pay a few bucks for it. What a pile of dreck! I'm 74 yrs old, and if that's what today's younger readers consider good literature, God help us all. Keep up your reviews - they're a breath of fresh air.

Ken Follett a sadistic perv said...

This author sounds like he could possibly be a rapist in his pasttime. Sorry, it just feels like he is getting off on the degradation of women. The negative energy that flows from this book is absolutely sickening so much so that i googled "Ken Follett and rapist!" Almost every female character gets raped, why? What a wierdo this dude is and that goes for his disgusting flock to which he caters. SADISTIC PERVERT!


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