Thursday, January 22, 2009

Night Over Water

I believe this excerpt from Ken Follett's novel best sums up its literary quality:
Now, while most people on the plane were still asleep, would be his chance of getting into the hold. Luggage locks would not delay him long. In no time at all he could have the Delhi Suite in his hands.

But he was wondering whether Margaret's breasts were not the most precious jewels he would ever hold.
Yeah, this was garbage. Like other Follett novels I've read (mostly when I was a teenager craving slightly richer stroke material than Penthouse Letters), all I'll probably end up remembering are the sex scenes (although, for some reason, I do retain the detailed passage in Lie Down With Lions on how shaped charges work using C4 and a Coke can). Still, I read the book because I needed inspiration for my upcoming game at DunDraCon (both involve Clipper planes and wartime intrigue, although less with the squamous horror here), and it certainly provided plenty of that. And I have to admit that Follett's formula of "MGM epic WWII romance if they had sex scenes on par with Caligula" is as much a part of the zeitgeist that informs my take on Our Darkest Hour as anything else.

This was trashy but mostly fun, basically Grand Hotel on the last commercial seaplane flying from Britain to the United States just as war is declared in 1939. Night Over Water lacks the excitement of Follett's espionage novels like Eye of the Needle and The Key to Rebecca, mainly because the characters' motivations lean more towards adultery, business fraud, and theft than in the great struggle that looms over such mundane proceedings. Indeed, nothing really happens until the last twenty pages, and when it does happen, the bad guys are so toothless that it feels like Follett just got bored with it by the end. Any climax that involves a German U-boat where the author never shows the U-boat is by definition perfunctory. So yeah, I guess it sucked. A very readable kind of suckage though, I'll give it that.

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