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159
3.1 out of 5 stars
Code to Zero
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2001
Amnesia is absolutely the most overused cliche in literature. I have never known anyone, who has ever known anyone, who has ever known anyone who has had amnesia. Ok - I know it exists, it is a medical fact. Still, this tool for creating a story is so tired, so pat, so ridiculous!! And how do the people in Luke's life react when they find out that he has amnesia? Is even a single one of them dubious, the least bit skeptical? No!! They don't question it for a second, but act like it happens everyday, and immediately begin launching into a description of what they know of Luke's background, as if they were giving a recipe for onion dip. I would not have read this book, knowing it was about amnesia, had not my mom given it to me for Christmas, knowing I like to read (used to like to read) Ken Follett books. No more, please!! Don't make me do it, Mom!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2007
As a fan of Follett, I was sorry to find this book to be in need of a good editor to avoid the multitudinous forward anachronisms [characters who say, in 1958, that "life sucks" and "go figure"] to say nothing of the major factual error in the epilogue... The premise of the story is good and, with a little more respect for the historical setting, the book could well have been fascinating.
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on September 7, 2003
Is this the same guy who wrote Eye of the Needle and The Key to Rebecca? This book recounts an allegedly fictional story behind the headlines of the "space race". The time period is that which precedes and follows the Soviet launch of Sputnik.
Reading like a spy thriller, Follett's book races to the final countdown of the launch of the Explorer in January 1958. Its main character (whose name I won't reveal) wakes on the floor of a railway station and remembers nothing of his past, including his name. Clearly he is a key player in the drama and much of the rest of the book is about his quest to recover his memory in time to save the space program. This is a very interesting storyline to think about and much of what is recounted here is plausible in an historical sense. However, the "memory struggle" of the book's main character becomes repetitive and tedious and the language between characters hollow.
It's a shame that this book wasn't better having come from a very good author equipped with an interesting story line. Perhaps the author was thinking too much about Hollywood and too little about a really good book.
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on September 7, 2003
Is this the same guy who wrote Eye of the Needle and The Key to Rebecca? This book recounts an allegedly fictional story behind the headlines of the "space race". The time period is that which precedes and follows the Soviet launch of Sputnik.
Reading like a spy thriller, Follett's book races to the final countdown of the launch of the Explorer in January 1958. Its main character (whose name I won't reveal) wakes on the floor of a railway station and remembers nothing of his past, including his name. Clearly he is a key player in the drama and much of the rest of the book is about his quest to recover his memory in time to save the space program. This is a very interesting storyline to think about and much of what is recounted here is plausible in an historical sense. However, the "memory struggle" of the book's main character becomes repetitive and tedious and the language between characters hollow.
It's a shame that this book wasn't better having come from a very good author equipped with an interesting story line. Perhaps the author was thinking too much about Hollywood and too little about a really good book.
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on November 13, 2001
How could a Harvard grad, WWII veteran, spy, and engineer not know where Newport News was? The use of xeroxing has been mentioned as a reflexion of poor editing; I agree, that troubled me to the point where I wondered what other historical information was also untrue. At one point our hero is driving a jeep on the Florida sands, the next moment he leaves his "car" to venture on foot. No one in 1958 called a jeep a car. Shouldn't do it now either, but back then a jeep was a four-wheel, very rugged, but very small off-road vehicle that would never have been referred to as a car. Sloppy work. No more Follet. I actually felt sorry for his editors, I imagine they caught errors but due to publishing deadlines, the changes were not incorporated into the final book. On the ideolgical side, too little depth to explain the motivation of those who leaned to the left. It also seemed too far fetched that a small group of young pre-war coeds in Cambridge would all play such significant roles in the major events of the world. Try "Cutout" by Francine Mathews
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on April 18, 2001
Code to Zero would have been a great science fiction novel -- in 1958, the year this story is alleged to occur.
Claude Lucas, a rocket engineer suffering global amnesia, struggles to determine who he is, why people are trying to kill him, and what secret threatens the success of America's first artificial satellite which is to be launched within two days.
Dr. Lucas' confusion may be compounded because he also finds himself in a world that did not exist in 1958. His mystery focusses on the location and meaning of "xeroxed" rocket blueprints which are missing along with his memory. But blueprints were still "blue" in 1958 because photocopying was still rare and expensive. And the first "xerox" machines would not be marketed for another year, nor would "xeroxing" become a verb for another decade. Other anomalies (the FBI building is built 15 years early, and passenger trains are again running on time despite being well into their final decline)abound, adding to the surrealism.
Lucas also fails to recognize that virtually every scene in his life replays one redrafted Hitchcock movie after another. Although two Union Station scenes, one Pullman car scene, and a kidnapping by a national monument would not be filmed until 1959 (North by Northwest), the entire plot is a watered down version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, 39 Steps and other films with which Lucas would have been familiar.
This derivative plot unfortunately flouts the rules which enabled successful Hitchcock thrillers. The content of the "McGuffin" (the missing blueprints) is important, and the chases and unsuccessful efforts to kill the hero are pedantically described and ultimately silly.
The author compensates for bad Hitchcok by adding bad LeCarre. Read LeCarre, substitute "Harvard" for "Cambridge", and you know the reasons for every bad political decision by characters in this book. And the book will give you a shorter explanation than does this paragraph.
The writer treats the readers as suffering short term memory loss and needlessly repeats details. For instance, Dr. Lucas' wife is described as a woman who likes "modern" furniture -- even after we have "seen" her furniture twice over two decades in the story.
The book has a great description of the Jupiter C rocket system, and this description is broken into compelling prologues to each chapter. Unfortunately, these technical descriptions of an engineering triumph underscore the uninspired prose of this artistic failure.
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Ken Follett is one of my favorite authors and I will forgive this sloppy deviation from his normally well constructed plots and flowing script. The first chapter really grabbed me and I eagerly read on, expecting more of the same. However, about sixty pages into it, I began to get the feeling that Mr. Follett was suffering from writer's block and let some 17 year old kid take over. Nevertheless I read thru to the end, but didn't really need to. The plot turned out to be incredibly amateurish and predictable. The shallow characters he created did not inspire me to wish any of them well. Has he joined the ranks of authors (ie: J. Patterson, P. Cornwell, J. Grisham etal) who, having been assured success based on previous acceptance, indulge in word mongering in order to crank out books in time for Xmas? I hope not. It would be impossible to reach perfection every time, but from Ken Follett I expect better than this. I hope the book's sales reflect the less than mediocre quality of this work. Maybe then the real Ken Follett will return!
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on February 4, 2004
This is, frankly, a terrible book. It's made more so by the fact that Follett has written great books before (Pillars of the Earth, for instance)...so what the heck is he doing here? It is, at best, a first draft for any novelist. The plot: contrived. The characters: unbelievable. The writing: tepid, sophomoric. Whoever was editing this should be taken to task as well; there are obvious repetitions of the plot (like "Pete's" reasons for looking up to Anthony getting explained at least twice) that should never have made it to print.
I'm reading alot of Elmore Leonard right now. While EL's stuff is crime fiction, not espionage fiction, it's the difference in writing that shouts out. Try reading Out of Sight or Ride the Rap, then take another look at Code to Zero...you'll be cringing within the first few pages.
Ken, you're too good a writer to be churning out garbage like this. Take your time and give us something worthy of your talent and time.
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on January 4, 2001
This latest novel shows none of the brilliance of Pillars of the Earth, none of the fascination of Dangerous Fortune, none of the history in A Place Called Freedom, none of the intrigue and sharpness found in Eye of the Needle, and none of the action in On Wings of Eagles. I can't believe it could be the same author of the aforementioned stories. Even the editors dozed as they worked: neighbourhood, but favor. Follett borrows from Trevanian when using clothing to delineate characters: Bowler and Raincoat. For those who have read this book, How did Luke have his front door key with him in Huntsville when at no time had he found his own clothes, wallet or other, and none of his friends had given him a spare key? For me, this novel reflects the problem with large advances and small expectations for popular writers. The author's grand smile on the back cover may just reflect his awareness that he has put one over on his publisher and his dedicated fans.
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on April 12, 2001
This was my first Follet novel and likely my last. This was just bad. That's the best way to describe it. The character interactions were strained. The mood and nuance of the book took very small and unsure steps. But mostly, there was zero creativity in getting from one situation to another.
My problem there is that Anthony, the main protagonist, pretty much gets everything he needs to happen. If he were to suddenly need a can of Coke, you can bet that there would be one, on ice, wherever he was standing.
I'm not going to go into the factual erros that others have explored other than to say they were there.
Finally, the book just wouldn't end. It was as if the author needed to say, "Oh...and," over and over again. The lesser protagonist, who I will not mention by name, and the way that character left the book was just sophomoric to say the least.
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