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3.1 out of 5 stars
Code to Zero
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon August 20, 2006
He wakes up in the men's room at Union Station. He can not remember who he is or how he got there. One shocking look in the mirror tells him he is a bum however he can not believe it. Now he must find out who he is. Watch answer leads him in a different direction and we are intrigued to find more about what let to this situation.

The only positive thing I can say about the story is that it is the standard Follett formula. Not quit the stature of "Eye of the needle" but better than the Follett wantobes . This is more like a Colombo episode in which we know the answer long before the characters and read to see how long it takes them to catch up with us. There are a few surprising details that pop up at the last minute. Do not look too close at real life dates and technology as many things do not match; however they do not distract from the story.

Mainly there are three elements that are intertwined through the story. One is the present (1958) where Luke has to figure out who he is and what he is doing on an urgent time schedule. The second is a detailed layman's description of how the first rockets were designed in 1958. The third is a story of a group that met in Harvard just before Pearl Harbor and went through the equivalent of the OSS together and where they ended up to the present day.

Try to find a copy of George Guidall's unabridged recorded reading as it adds a good dimension to the story and will keep you hooked to the end. I used up some predacious gasoline listing to this in the parking lot.

Once you start the story you will have to finish it. Then you may wish it did not finish so soon.
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He wakes up in the men's room at Union Station. He can not remember who he is or how he got there. One shocking look in the mirror tells him he is a bum however he can not believe it. Now he must find out who he is. Watch answer leads him in a different direction and we are intrigued to find more about what let to this situation.

The only positive thing I can say about the story is that it is the standard Follett formula. Not quit the stature of "Eye of the needle" but better than the Follett wantobes . This is more like a Colombo episode in which we know the answer long before the characters and read to see how long it takes them to catch up with us. There are a few surprising details that pop up at the last minute. Do not look too close at real life dates and technology as many things do not match; however they do not distract from the story.

Mainly there are three elements that are intertwined through the story. One is the present (1958) where Luke has to figure out who he is and what he is doing on an urgent time schedule. The second is a detailed layman's description of how the first rockets were designed in 1958. The third is a story of a group that met in Harvard just before Pearl Harbor and went through the equivalent of the OSS together and where they ended up to the present day.

Try to find a copy of George Guidall's unabridged recorded reading as it adds a good dimension to the story and will keep you hooked to the end. I used up some predacious gasoline listing to this in the parking lot.

Once you start the story you will have to finish it. Then you may wish it did not finish so soon.
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on December 5, 2003
Luke woke up to find himself sleeping on the floor of a public toilet with a bum named Pete. It was a staggering start of a novel. Luke couldn't remember even his name. His street life began. These anecdotes of homeless bums are quite different from those of Street Lawyer by John Grisham.
Soon a woman named Elspeth appeared. So the woman knows about Luke. The tale returned to the past; the year was 1941, and the relationship was unfolded between Luke and Elspeth, Luke and his colleague Anthony, and Luke and Billie Josephson who was dangerous to Elspeth's happy life with Luke.
The tale was back to the present. The year was 1958. Luke was loitering in the city for his lost memory. He sensed he was followed by two people. His friend Anthony Carroll was now Luke's enemy. Somehow Anthony was responsible for his loss of memory. Luke was Dr. Claude Lucas responsible for space programs of USA. A rocket was to be launched soon, but something was wrong and Luke knows the reason behind his lost memory. He must get back his lost memory to save USA. Untold story by Luke's side was mysterious enough.
I knew the enemies of Luke, but the enigma was Elspeth whose intention was not apparent. She is Luke�fs wife, but acts against Luke�fs welfare. The drama unfolds with lightning speed. Every chapter consumes only half an hour. Luke moves, Anthony counter-moves, Billie enters, and Elspeth spins the wheel.
This setup was superb enough to attract and grip my heart to read along faster and faster to the final mind-numbing conclusion of this splendid masterpiece of love and deception. You won�ft regret holding this book in your hand.
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on September 25, 2003
Ken Follett's novel is set in the time of the Cold War. Just in time where the US and Russia start their race to explore the space.
The book starts when a man wakes up in a public restroom, dressed in rags, terribly hungover and without a clue how he's got there. In the next hours he finds out that he is an important rocket scientist...but still he doesn't know how he's lost his memory. Then it comes to mind that someone made him lose his memory as he might know more than he's allowed to. With the help of some friends he finds out that he's involved into a big conspiracy, which threatens his life.
Follett's book is interesting, well-written and fun to read. Nevertheless a big minus of "Code to Zero" are the strange coincidences that are sometimes hard to believe. Not too good is also the end that simply doesn't keep up with the high quality of the rest of the novel. But I have to say that these things are less important..."Code to Zero" is a good book and definitely worth reading.
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on March 6, 2003
Code to Zero is an unusual book. The main part of the plot takes place over a period of a couple of days in 1958, though there are flashbacks to earlier periods, some of them the better part of two decades. The author jumps between the plot and the flashbacks rather seamlessly.
In the main story, the protagonist wakes up in a men's room in a train station, dressed as a bum. He's not certain what or who he is, but he thinks he has skills and that his clothing isn't a good representation of his status. He soon gets his bearings and begins to regain his footing, stealing clothes and a car, then working on figuring out who he is. Eventually this develops into a mystery: once he knows who he is, he must find out why he lost his memory, and more importantly what he was supposed to forget.
I did have a few problems with the story. Though I won't give away any of the twists of the plot, I will tell you that I thought it a bit much for the main character to be all of the things he is in the story. And I will say I found the solution to the story to be a bit obvious and predictable. Those things being said, the writing is good, and the action flows along quickly and seamlessly, so you don't notice you're reading that much.
This is a good book, and I enjoyed it.
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on December 19, 2002
I don't share the sentiments of those who did not like this book. It was given to me for Christmas a year ago and I regret not having picked it up sooner to read through it. The central character wakes up in Washington's Union Station with what he thinks is a bad hangover, dressed like a bum and not knowing who he is. After many chapters, that issue is solved only to open up other questions, most notably why has someone tried to erase his memory? He is able to piece together that he is a rocket scientist associated with the Explorer I launch, that he has an OSS background, and that he came to Washington because of concerns he had about the integrity of the Explorer program. Someone didn't want him revealing what he knew, but who and why?
The answers to those questions come in an interesting way and as they are revealed, his life is put in considerable danger as is the safety of the Explorer I launch. I have enjoyed most, but not all of Mr. Follett's books, but this one is a clear winner.
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on December 7, 2001
Set in the early 1940s and late 1950s, "Zero" has all the characteristics of a movie from that time: spies, war heroes, espionage, and drama. The hero is handsome, brilliant and dashing. His wife is stunning, tall, brilliant and only a little less dashing. The book jumps back and forth between the time the collection of key characters meet at Harvard in 1941 and the same set converge again at the time of the first American space launch in 1958.
In between, there are wars to be fought, affairs to ignite, and traitors to flush out. The basic premise of a man finding himself dirty and without memory, struggling to regain his own sense of self is an old story line. Yet it sets off a plausible and generally entertaining and exciting chain of events.
In his typical fashion, Follett does a good job of drawing the reder into his story, cliches and all. Books such as these, unless there is a compelling story, should be set aside very quickly or not read at all. Instead, despite the stereotypes and aged images, this is an enjoyable read. Yes, some of the situations are a bit too standard and two or more characters are more cartoons than characters, but Follett uses history as a method to weave together a not unlikely plot and even to throw in a few twists and turns along the way.
Great airplane paperback reading.
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on November 17, 2001
This story set in 1958 and flashing back to the early 1940's is remarkably true to the period, not only to the physical landscape, but also to the mental and moral attitudes prevalent at that time. Protagonist Dr. Claude "Luke" Lucas is a true man of his time. The story revolves around our first space launch, treachery, double agents, just the right amount of romance, and a satisfyingly non-telegraphed whodunit. Particular praise to British author Follett being so right on in telling a uniquely American tale.
Luke's autobiographical amnesia (he retains his skills and knowledge, but has no memory of who he is or any of his interpersonal relationships) is well done. I just wished we had been kept in suspense longer regarding his true identity. The story was riveting while he logically tries to piece together, using every faculty left to him, just who he might be.
The characterizations are good, if a few too many of them. Cape Canaveral is well depicted and we catch the excitement of a space launch that no longer exists today. I didn't think the premise that if this particular launch was not successful, the USA was forever doomed to be in the backwater of space technology, was overly compelling. Old pro Follett delivers on crackling suspense in the final countdown.
I was introduced to Ken Follett via "Eye of the Needle" and was completely blown away by this wonderful story and went on a tear reading other Follett tales. He's a consistent good storyteller, but there is no denying there is an uneveness in quality. "Code to Zero" is no "Eye of the Needle," but it is certainly very fine Follett. Recommended.
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on May 22, 2001
I'm a big fan of historical fiction and suspense so this book was a wonderful combination of both. Set in 1958, in the height of the Spudnik anxiety, the reader gets a mix of early space program with D.C. area political intrigue.
Follett has assembled an interesting central cast - a group of friends from their days at Harvard (late 30's/early 40's) who went on to intrigue in WW2. They're now in their late 30's and crossing paths as the countdown to the last hope for the American space program is due to launch. Our protagonist, Luke, wakes up with amnesia and the story begins. Along the way, he's able to look at old friends with fresh eyes. An old flame comes to his rescue and well....
Wow, what a group of mixed opinions in these reviews. All I can say that as a middle aged reader who hasn't seen all those Hitchcock movies, this was an entertaining read. I listened to George Guidell's unabridged reading and found myself sitting in parking lots so I could just listen to a few more pages. That doesn't happen all that often these days.
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on March 4, 2001
This is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed. I think it was written with a movie in mind, and the movie should be a good one.
The basic plot, the amnesia of the protagonist, is a creative tool that makes the story all that more engrossing. The ending is a little too neat for my mind. Inconvenient marriages and antagonists get disposed of with un-lifelike ease and simplicity. The happy ending is all too happy to be realistic. But, getting there has been interesting.
I am a bit surprised by the anachronisms of the book. Repeated use of a Xerox machine, yet to be introduced to the market (and perhaps not even invented yet, but I am not sure of that) is casually mentioned. Any reader who remembers the 1950s and worked in engineering will remember, not fondly, the mimeograph machine and the ammonia smell of drawings being reproduced. Not Haloid Corporation to ease one's pains; just yet.
More to the point than that, however, is the dialogue. Teen slang of the 1990s (this "sucks") was certainly not in use then, and the writer should not use it if he expects the text to have a ring of authenticity to it. I think that the author got a few cars mixed up then, as well. And, Corvette convertibles in the 1950s, as far as I can recollect, were not air-conditioned. Why be picky? The author thanks a professional writers' research organization at the end of the book for their support. For sure, they should know better.
But, all in all, it's a good book. A tale well designed to take advantage of a moment in history shrouded in a bit of mystery.
What are authors going to do when people forget the Cold War? The Black Hats, and the White Hats, got trashed with the Berlin Wall's demise. I wait with eager anticipation the next generation of techno-thrillers. It's about time.
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