Reviews of Never by Ken Follett

Never

A Novel

by Ken Follett

Never by Ken Follett X
Never by Ken Follett
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Nov 2021, 816 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 2022, 816 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Book Summary

The new must-read epic from master storyteller Ken Follett: more than a thriller, it's an action-packed, globe-spanning drama set in the present day.

"Every catastrophe begins with a little problem that doesn't get fixed." So says Pauline Green, president of the United States, in Follett's nerve-racking drama of international tension.

A shrinking oasis in the Sahara Desert; a stolen US Army drone; an uninhabited Japanese island; and one country's secret stash of deadly chemical poisons: all these play roles in a relentlessly escalating crisis.

Struggling to prevent the outbreak of world war are a young woman intelligence officer; a spy working undercover with jihadists; a brilliant Chinese spymaster; and Pauline herself, beleaguered by a populist rival for the next presidential election.

Never is an extraordinary novel, full of heroines and villains, false prophets and elite warriors, jaded politicians and opportunistic revolutionaries. It brims with cautionary wisdom for our times, and a delivers a visceral, heart-pounding read that transports readers to the brink of the unimaginable.

Chapter 1

Seen from a plane, the car would have looked like a slow beetle creeping across an endless beach, the sun glinting off its polished black armor. In fact it was doing thirty miles per hour, the maximum safe speed on a road that had unexpected potholes and cracks. No one wanted to get a flat tire in the Sahara Desert.

The road led north from N'Djamena, capital city of Chad, through the desert toward Lake Chad, the biggest oasis in the Sahara. The landscape was a long, flat vista of sand and rock with a few pale yellow dried-up bushes and a random scatter of large and small stones, everything the same shade of mid-tan, as bleak as a moonscape.

The desert was unnervingly like outer space, Tamara Levit thought, with the car as a rocket ship. If anything went wrong with her space suit she could die. The comparison was fanciful and made her smile. All the same she glanced into the back of the car, where there were two reassuringly large plastic demijohns of water, enough to keep them...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

What makes Never a standout is how brilliantly Follett captures that slow, almost invisible preamble to war. Small actions lead to larger ones, treaties obligate countries to intervene, personal biases influence decisions. The author's skill in depicting that build-up makes the novel utterly terrifying, and the actions he describes, taken by seemingly reasonable people, are incredibly plausible. Although the book is ultimately a high-octane page-turner, it takes a long time to get there. I absolutely couldn't put it down from about the halfway point on, but the first section was a struggle. I'm glad I persisted, but at over 800 pages, it could have used a little judicious editing...continued

Full Review Members Only (659 words).

(Reviewed by Kim Kovacs).

Media Reviews

New York Times
Never isn't always a subtle book — there's a Republican politician who uses the phrase "bad hombre" — and a subplot about Pauline Green, the U.S. president, watching her marriage implode feels overcrowded. (A greater focus on South Korea's president, who makes a few globally significant decisions, would have been welcome.) But as climate change threatens to increase political unrest, Follett neatly dramatizes the growing danger with references to famine in North Korea and lakes drying out in Chad.

The Washington Post
Urgent and fiercely compelling ... Never is first-rate entertainment that has something important to say. It deserves the popular success it will almost certainly achieve.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A complex, scary thriller that feels too plausible for comfort...[T]hat's Follett: You'll be so absorbed in the story threads that you'll follow them anywhere—and you'll suddenly realize you've read hundreds of pages. On one level, it's great entertainment; on another, a window into a sobering possibility.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
In this terrific international thriller from MWA Grand Master Follett, President Pauline Green, a moderate Republican who's up for reelection, must contend for the nomination with far-right Sen. James Moore, whose macho talk appeals to many Republican voters...This is a powerful, commanding performance from one of the top writers in the genre.

Booklist
Absolutely compelling...A smart, scary, and all-too-plausible thriller.

Author Blurb Lawrence H. Summers, former U.S. Treasury Secretary
A compelling story, and only too realistic.

Reader Reviews

Barry J

Unbelievable
As I titled this book review it just is is unbelievable. Follett, whose works I previously adored, did a horrible job. He makes everyone look like a fool. This type of book wasn't needed.
B. Hoover

Follett’s Folly
Not Follet’s best, by far.

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Beyond the Book

The Republic of Chad

Shallow pools of Lake Chad with small boats and a child bending toward the waterMuch of Ken Follett's novel Never is set in present-day Chad, a landlocked nation located in north-central Africa. Officially known as The Republic of Chad, at 496,000 square miles, the country is the fifth largest on the continent.

Chad has a long and complex history; it's one of the areas scientists believe may have been the cradle of humanity. The 2001 discovery of a 6- to 7-million-year-old hominid skull, from a primate known as Sahelanthropus tchadensis, supports this theory. It's believed that modern humans began continuously inhabiting the area around Lake Chad starting roughly 10,000 years ago, and there's evidence of a trans-Saharan trade route running through this location from around 3000 BCE. In addition, archeological ...

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