march boutiques-francophones Unlimited cloud storage snsflyout Furniture Introducing Kindle Oasis sports Tools Music Deals Store Registry

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars61
3.3 out of 5 stars
Format: Hardcover|Change
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on July 1, 2004
When I first started listening to this novel on unabridged audio cassette, I admit to being confused and having to rewind the first 45 minutes in order to listen to the opening sequence a second time. But after this bout of fuzzy thinking, the fast pace and non-stop excitement narrated in the intelligent and frat boy confident voice of Washington staffer Harris Sandler. moved me along at breakneck speed, unraveling a mystery as labyrinthine as the old gold mine in one of the novel's most exciting sequences. Bored to an unhealthy cynicism with the Washington CYA scene of political manuevering, Harris and his best bud Matthew have spiced up their otherwise mundane careers by doing the unethical: gambling on Congress in a little wagering fun known only by a select few as the Zero Game. Very early on in the novel, the sure thing turns bad, and Harris finds himself in an unthinkable position: on the run for his life from a maniacal assasin with a black box tool that simulates a heart attack when used on its intended victim, with 17 year old Viv Parker, a senate page from Michigan as his only ally.

As Harris and Viv weave from DC to South Dakota and back attempting to uncover the secret of the Zero Game, the reader unearths vital information about the smooth and clever Harris Sandler whose pin-striped perfection hides a disillusioned knight unhorsed by over ten years of back-stabbing DC wheeling and dealing. The innocent, idealistic and religious Viv plays the light to his shadow and together they make a wonderfully precocious and unforgettable team.

The denouement is not predictable, the science interesting, the Washington insider scenes informative and the thrills lasting until the epilogue. If listening to the audio performance, Scott Brick does a more than admirable job of depicting Harris' fallen angel personality; his Viv is brilliantly bright-eyed and wholesomely winsome.

At the end, the two protagonists part ways, but I would like to see these two reunited in the future, say 10 or 15 years down the road; perhaps difficult for the author to envision a future political climate, but fun nevertheless to imagine what could happen to these two down the road.

I recommend this book highly to all those who like a little espionage with a domestic rather than Ludlem-esque international flavor.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on May 24, 2004
After his taut mystery thrillers, The Millionaires and The First Counsel, Brad Meltzer again takes you by the throat for a game and a chase through the corridors of the U.S. Congress for a new and original take on how human weakness can affect the governance of our nation and allow it to become an unwilling provider for a treasonous operation. If you don't get caught up in the drama (but you will), you'll come away from this read with an insight into how congressional staffers negotiate appropriations for bills. It's our money, so it pays to have some idea.
The weakness is in being a sucker for an insider's game -- a secret game for the privileged. Matthew Mercer and Harris Sandler his mentor who helped him get on Congressman Nelson Cordell's staff and in on the game, are players. It's a secret game that gives you a sense of importance because you don't know who else is playing. the object is to get unsuspecting legislators to do or say specific things, or guess the final tally on a vote. The stakes are based on a preceding round of betting and, so far, the stakes have been little more than dinner money. On a staffer's salary, the risk has been comfortable, but, the greater accomplishment of winning is to establish yourself as a true power broker in Washington.
To win the latest Zero Game, Matthew has to insert his Congressman's land sale project into the Interior House Appropriations bill, which has to do with the transfer of land rights for a closed gold mine in South Dakota, little more than the usual pork and a simple matter for him to do. He can taste victory and wavers only when the bet rises to a couple of thousand dollars. Greed and the intoxication of a sure thing drives him to ignore the fact that a loss could put him in the poor house. He inserts the project into the bill and, shortly thereafter, is murdered.
Harris is devastated, but he also realizes that his friend's fate can't be unrelated to the game. Drawing in the unwilling help of Viv, a 16-year old, black, female page whose access around the Capitol is as unnoticed as it is unlimited, he sets out to investigate a case his superiors are suggesting was just an accident. It doesn't take long to realize that his efforts have made him and Viv targets for attack by Janos, an arch, relentless hitman who's working for the influential lobbyist pulling all the strings.
This is high adventure in high places, with layers of unpredictable developments in a dense plot of international intrigue. Highly recommended for the mystery thriller reader who will happily fall into its trap of suspense in a completely new set of circumstances and locales.
(Review will appear in NoHo>LA, a Los Angeles newspaper)
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on May 24, 2004
After his taut mystery thrillers, The Millionaires and The First Counsel, Brad Meltzer again takes you by the throat for a game and a chase through the corridors of the U.S. Congress for a new and original take on how human weakness can affect the governance of our nation and allow it to become an unwilling provider for a treasonous operation. If you don't get caught up in the drama (but you will), you'll come away from this read with an insight into how congressional staffers negotiate appropriations for bills. It's our money, so it pays to have some idea.
The weakness is in being a sucker for an insider's game -- a secret game for the privileged. Matthew Mercer and Harris Sandler his mentor who helped him get on Congressman Nelson Cordell's staff and in on the game, are players. It's a secret game that gives you a sense of importance because you don't know who else in Washington might be playing. The object is to bet on such things as getting unsuspecting legislators to do or say specific things, or guess the final tally on a vote. The stakes are based on a preceding round of betting and, so far, the it's been little more than dinner money, but the real payoff is establishing yourself as a true power broker in Washington.
To win the latest Zero Game, Matthew has to insert his Congressman's land sale project into the Interior House Appropriations bill, which has to do with the transfer of land rights for a closed gold mine in South Dakota, little more than the usual pork and a simple matter for him to do. He can taste victory and wavers only when the bet rises to a couple of thousand dollars. Greed and the intoxication of a sure thing drives him to ignore the fact that a loss could put him in the poor house. He inserts the project into the bill and, shortly thereafter, is murdered.
Harris is devastated, but he also realizes that his friend's fate can't be unrelated to the game. Drawing in the unwilling help of Viv, a 16-year old, black, female page whose access around the Capitol is as unnoticed as it is unlimited, he sets out to investigate a case his superiors are suggesting was just an accident. It doesn't take long to realize that his efforts have made him and Viv targets for attack by Janos, an arch, relentless hitman who's working for the influential lobbyist pulling all the strings.
This is high adventure in high places, with layers of unpredictable developments in a dense plot of international intrigue. Highly recommended for the mystery thriller reader who will happily fall into its trap of suspense in a completely new set of circumstances and locales.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on May 11, 2004
This is my first Meltzer novel, I believe. I also believe it will be my last. It begins with a mildly interesting tour of the arcana that may fill the lives of Congressional staffers.
The initial premise is the "Zero Game," a game played by a group organized into cells. You know only one person above you who invites you into the game and one person below whom you can invite to join.
The game turns deadly and serious. (I don't like to give plot details because I think it can interfere with the enjoyment of the novel.
In competent hands the premise so far could have led to a satisfying thriller. Meltzer, apparently, lacks the competence to accomplish this. He has one of the protagonists, a Senate staffer around 30 teaming with a 17 year old African-American woman . . . and from that point on, the story is just plain silly. And slow. And impossible to believe.
Some authors, particularly Clive Cussler, can present the reader with utterly unbelievable characters, plots and situations and by sheer force of words, induce the reader to suspend credulity.
Meltzer can't do this and the result is a slow, unpleasant and unsatisfying experience.
Jerry
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on April 4, 2004
Matthew Mercer has been working in politics in Washington D.C. for the last eight years for a congressman but the job is getting old not much fun any more and he is ready to call an end to this career. Now Harris Sandler is works on Senate side of congress and happens to be Matthews mentor and friend since Matthews freshman year in college.Harris changes Matthews mind when he introduces Matthew to a new game that seems perfectly harmless.
The idea for the game a game that has been going on for years is that they bet on the outcome of votes and some times getting pranks to happen by the congressman while the congressman do not even know they are part of it.
Matthew is also on the appropiations committee where they decide who is going to get how much money for which projects so when a chance comes up for Harris and Matthew to bet on the game and matthew promising victory and a fat return because he is on this committee Harris and him put down a fat sum of money on the game.But with all this going out somewhere around 20,000 dollars Matthew gets nervous and follows the page who picks the package up.Part of the reason he gets nervous is that the only one he knows that is in the game is the one who braught him in Harris.Well following the page gets Matthew killed and causes Harris to find out how and why and who is behind the game and is it really so harmless.
Unlike some of the other reviews i thought this was a great book and very fastpaced with a surprise ending it was a diffenet page turner when i got about 2/3's of the way into i could not read the pages fast enough to find out what happens
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on March 22, 2004
I must agree with the reviewer drgoldstein2. I too, am a long-time Meltzer follower and fan and I was seriously disappointed in this book. As others have said, I had eagerly anticipated this book due to the description. And if that had been the book which had been written, I probably would have loved it, but it wasn't. I would have like to have seen more about "The Game" and how it's played --- surely that could create suspense and tension --- and I would have liked to see the chases reduced and kept in DC. Mr. Meltzer does his best when he keeps his stories to the politics and the politicians. I also found the pairing of the 2 main characters very implausable and rather uninteresting and unbelievable. From the beginning, the book reminded me strongly of the author's previous title "The Millionaires" and perhaps that was part of the problem -- felt like I'd been there, done that.
One disappointment from an author won't turn me off entirely, so I'll look forward to the Mr. Meltzer's next book, but perhaps without quite so great an anticipation.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 16, 2004
What if staff members of U.S. Congressmen placed bets on whether certain portions of bills before Congress would be passed? And just what happens when the stakes become too high, resulting in murder? That is precisely what author Meltzer explores in his latest novel of political thrills and chills when Congressional staffers Matthew Mercer and Harris Sandler bet on the passage of a former South Dakota gold mine sale in an Appropriations bill. When a Congressional page absconds with Matthew and Harris' betting money, one of them makes the mistake of following the "page" and becomes the murder victim of wildcard hit man Martin Janos.
But the suspenseful journey really commences when the remaining staffer finds Senate Page Viv Parker's stolen nametag near the site of the murder. Fearing for his life, he enlists the help of seventeen-year-old Viv Parker, as together, the two attempt to find the significance of the land deal, traveling to South Dakota to solve the mystery behind the formerly defunct gold mine, all the while eluding the wily Janos. The pulse pounding adventures of this duo are imbued with a sense of realism from author Meltzer, who once served as an intern on Capitol Hill. Full of twists and turns, Meltzer's latest is a thriller complete with the scary reality of the underbelly of politics.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 9, 2004
For his fifth novel, Brad Meltzer returns to the D.C. locale of two of his earlier books, THE TENTH JUSTICE (his first) and THE FIRST COUNSEL (his third). This story follows the same format as his previous works; it is a fast paced thriller that is built around a particular branch of government, in this case Congress, especially the inner workings of the appropriations process. (The other books dealt with events inside the Supreme Court and the White House, respectively.) In keeping with Meltzer's past work, events quickly transpire which involve the main characters in situations well above their pay grades and place them in extreme danger as a result of knowledge which they possess. Then, as is common to all of the author's work and in keeping with the format of the genre, there is a race against time and a struggle against seemingly overwhelming odds to unravel the mystery before the protagonists are killed.
The first sixty pages of THE ZERO GAME are much slower moving than most of Meltzer's stories, but are very cleverly utilized to present the backdrop for the plot. We meet Matthew Mercer, a 32 year old assistant in the office of Congressman Cordell and his older college friend, Harris Sandler, who has been employed on Capitol Hill since graduation and now works for Senator Stevens. They have been recruited to participate in a clandestine game that is only known to the participants. In fact, an integral element of the game is that it is conducted as an anonymous chain where the identities of the other players involved are furnished only in code form. It appears to be a harmless diversion that involves betting on relatively inconsequential Cogressional items and which injects some excitement, risk, strategy and the possibilty of financial gain into the frequent tedium of the day-to-day legislative process. The author has created a really ingenious idea and his descriptions of both the conduct of the game itself as well as the inner workings of the Capitol (the staff, politicians, lobbyists, and the building itself) are very informative and create a completely credible aura for the story which follows.
Surprise! It suddenly seems that the game may not be as innocuous as it appears; someone regards its current subject as important enough to attempt to manipulate the outcome regardless of the cost. People start to die, and it is totally unclear who can be trusted and what comprises the real agenda of Martin Janos (a stone cold killer masquerading as an FBI agent) and his unknown associates. A sixteen year old Senate page is reluctantly enlisted to help unravel the mystery, and a breakneck and almost continuous chase develops as the Congressional aides, isolated from their friends and associates, try to develop an understanding of the goal of the high stakes game in which they are caught while simultaneously managing to stay alive. The plot is quite original, and I have chosen not to include more specific details in order to avoid spoilers.
The author states in his acknowledgements,"in every novel, the goal is to make a complete fabrication sound like absolute fact. The only way to pull it off is to arm yourself with details." And as I stated above, he does an incredibly good job of creating a credible premise because of the level of convincing detail that his research has provided for the major elements of this book. The influence of lobbyists, the Congressional appropriation process and House-Senate conference procedure are all accurately portrayed in detail, and the author even descended into a mine to make sure that the portion of the story that takes place in such a venue would ring true. (N.B. If you suffer from claustrophobia do not read this book, two lengthy segments of it take place in confined quarters underground.) Unfortunately, as in Meltzer's previous books, the action eventually gets so sensational and so far fetched that he does not achieve his goal. An occasional difficult escape is standard for this genre, but some of these are nothing short of miraculous, usually without the benefit of either the training or equipment which would lend them any credibility at all.
Two other elements deserve comment. First, there is the usual lack of character development in such stories, although enough details are provided concerning each of the main characters to keep them from appearing unidimensional. (Perhaps the most interesting involve Janos' observations in regard to his love of automobiles.) Second, as with THE FIRST COUNSEL, this story is told in the form of a first person narrative. This is very effective and serves the author's goals well, but there is a disconcerting element. Since no person is present for all the action, we witness the events through the eyes of multiple individuals. This was a little disconcerting when the transitions occurred; fortunately they were not too frequent and handled well by the author.
In summary, there are several really interesting elements to this story, and the premise is indeed very clever. If you are a Brad Meltzer fan or like action thrillers with a political flavor, you should enjoy this book. Despite its weaknesses and the fact that several of the plot twists were foreshadowed as the story proceeded, I decided that it deserved a four star rating. However, with a lot less sensationalism and a tighter plot it would easily have deserved a solid five stars. Thus, in the end I was both disappointed and tantalized by its unrealized potential.
Tucker Andersen
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 8, 2004
It's tough to review a Brad Meltzer book. Any discussion of the plot is going to give too much away. Over drinks, I was attempting to tell a friend about THE ZERO GAME. She hadn't started reading it yet, and I was midway through. "Oh, you're going to love it," I said. "The premise alone is enough to hook you."
"Don't tell me," she said.
"No, no, seriously," I pushed. "I won't ruin it. You see, these guys who work in congress as aides and stuff, they have this game. It's super secret, and they bet on legislation, guessing the outcome of votes and stuff."
"That's too much, stop."
"Well, you can imagine from that all the different ways Meltzer can take it."
"Seriously. I don't want to know anymore."
"No," I said. "You don't get it. That's information you get just on the first ten pages. I didn't spoil anything. The book is packed with twists and turns, probably more than any of Brad's other books. By page fifty, you're going to be so sucked in; you're never going to want to put it down."
And it's true. In the first fifty pages of a 460-page thriller, there is already one turn of events so shocking that you start the next chapter fully expecting to discover Meltzer is messing with you. "No," you say, "he CAN'T do that." But he does! And at that point, THE ZERO GAME is just getting revved up. The rest of the novel is a mad, breathless dash to find the answer to the sort of convoluted plot only people who are part of the US government could dream up!
THE ZERO GAME is full of Meltzer's usual narrative tricks. Shifting points-of-view, untrustworthy characters that switch allegiances at the flip of a page, young idealists, and a hero (or two) pushed out of their comfort zone, suddenly finding themselves on a run for their lives, having to scramble to find the strength and skill to survive. It boggles my mind that there hasn't yet been a movie adaptation of one of Brad's books. THE ZERO GAME was easily more exciting than any modern film I saw last year. It's a popcorn thriller, an action-packed suspense story that doesn't need special effects or the chiseled features of a $20M paycheck to excite. Proof positive that there's nothing like a good book to get the imagination--and the adrenaline--pumping.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 7, 2004
Brad Meltzer has a habit of grabbing his readers by the collar and pulling them through his novels at lightening speed. Having not scored on the big screen with any of his books, though some of them would make great movies, he does not have the name recognition that Baldacci and Grisham do. For that reason he is somewhat under-appreciated.
ZERO GAME is faced paced. Its so fast paced, that the original first person narrator, Matthew Mercer is killed within the first 50 pages by a ruthless hitman named Janos. Then Harris Sandler picks up the ball and starts running with it and Capitol page Vivian Parker.
Matthew and Harris are Capitol Hill Appropriators. The decide what goes into bills and where the money goes. The Zero Game refers to insiders like Matthew and Harris inserting various items into bills and betting to see if they get passed without question. Things get deadly when a seemingly worth abandoned mine in South Dakota is inserted as a giveaway.
Harris and Viv learn that a lab to create Plutonium from worthless Neptunium, a byproduct of the nuclear process. Unfortunately, the mine-shaft is run by a terrorist nation. Thus, Janos is sent to clean things up and wipe out anyone in the know.
Fast and fun, but not as many twists and turns as some of Meltzer's previous works. TENTH JUSTICE is still Meltzer's best book. The underling being taken advantage of by outside interests is utilized again here. Good entertainment, though, as others have noted, drawn out at times.
Still a good read.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse