Ken Follett’s sobering novel ‘Never’

Many authors, especially lately, have written books about the end of the world as we know it. I think the first novel I read about an apocalypse in our world was the 1949 Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. In spite of its theme, which seemed all too real to me as a junior high school student–I liked the novel a lot.  Stewart’s antagonist was disease.

Today, I see a lot of novels in which the culprit is climate change, and that’s to be expected. Early on, I read Hiroshima (1946) by John Hersey, On the Beach (1957) by Nevil Shute, and countless nuclear war-related novels since. Those books probably influenced my belief that Truman was wrong when he dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

To avoid getting into the realm of spoilers here, I’m not doing to tell you how Never ends. Yes, it does involve the prospect of nuclear war. People seem to be of two minds about how a nuclear war might start. Primarily, people presume Russia or China will suddenly attack the United States or whatever rationale brings either country to that point. Others presume the war would be started by a rogue nation like Iran or North Korea that has nothing to lose by harming the United States and other western nations.

What’s sobering about Follett’s novel is how small and/or isolated provocations, many of which involve a so-called “appropriate response” can escalate into a potential conflict that might involve nuclear weapons. In this scenario, it doesn’t take long for countries that have responded to attacks with conventional weapons to respond with a measured conventional weapons response to suddenly be on the brink of a war much larger and more difficult to stop.

This well-written, realistic novel provides readers with a lot of food for thought. It’s one of those books that’s very hard to stop reading even though there are chores to be done and bedtime to consider.  I hope some of those who read it will be impacted as I was impacted by Hiroshima and On The Beach and resolve that there’s never a justifiable reason for using a nuclear weapon.