Sneak peek: 5 things to know about Ken Follett’s new novel

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Ken Follett's new thriller, Never, is set in modern times. (SUPPLIED)
Ken Follett's new thriller, Never, is set in modern times. (SUPPLIED)

News that the Pillars of the Earth writer was releasing a prequel to his classic Kingsbridge series was like manna from heaven for fans last year. While 2020’s The Evening and the Morning, set in the Dark Ages, was different from the first three books in the Kingsbridge series – set between the 12th and 16th centuries – his new novel, Never, due out later this year, will be an even greater surprise for readers because it’s a thriller set in the modern age.

1. The title

Never, the title of his novel, picks up on the theme of the Century trilogy: war between nations. The first book in the trilogy, Fall of Giants, is set in the First World War and Russian Revolution periods; the second, Winter of the World, takes place during the rise of the Third Reich, World War II and the start of the Cold War; and Edge of Eternity, the last in the series, has as its backdrop the major socio-political events that shaped international relations in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, such as the civil rights movement, Vietnam, the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis. When Follett was thinking about Never, he asked himself what if a similar set of events and political reactions could lead to a World War III today? “How would it start?” says Follett. “In my story, what would be our equivalent of the assassination that ignited WW1? I interviewed people involved in decision-making at the highest level, and asked them what did they see as the flashpoints of today, the modern equivalents of Serbia or Alsace-Lorraine. The result is Never.”


2. The theme

What is the unlikely spark or trigger that takes nations over the brink, into outright war, is the idea behind Never. While writing Fall of Giants, Follett realised that the nations had gone into the Great War reluctantly. “I was shocked to realise that the First World War was a war that nobody wanted. No European leader on either side intended it to happen. But the emperors and prime ministers, one by one, made decisions – logical, moderate decisions – each of which took us a small step closer to the most terrible conflict the world had ever known. I came to believe that it was all a tragic accident. And I wondered: Could that happen again?”


3. The action

The action, revolving around “connections between terrorism and organised crime”, unfolds in the United States’ White House, North Africa and Beijing, with protagonists from the world’s capitals trying to prevent the start of another world war. “I studied the ways in which civilisation today is menaced by terrorism, by the remorseless expansion of the Sahara Desert, by the reckless ambitions of newly wealthy countries and the stubborn determination of declining powers to hold on to what they’ve got. There’s no shortage of dangerous situations.”


4. The protagonists

Never has many strong female characters, including a woman American president and a young American woman working for the CIA in North Africa – the type of brave dark-haired beauty whom, Follett admits, he unconsciously seems drawn to creating in his novels.


5. The genre

Never is a thriller with an ending that the author himself couldn’t have anticipated. The reader does not know whether World War 3 will break out right till the end. “When I started writing it,” says Follett, “I didn't know how it would end. And you won't know until the last page.”


Watch the preview video below. 



You can pre-order Ken Follett’s, Never, on Kindle. It will be published in the US and the UK on 9 November. The publication dates in other countries are yet to be confirmed.


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