on July 12, 2004
Although I am a Ken Follet aficionado and continue to unabashedly wave his banner "Best adventure thriller writer alive today" this was not his best work, nor his second best work, but it is a good, captivating page turner none-the-less.
The momentum builds in the first half but peters-out in the later half, like a roller coaster that almost reaches the pinnacle, but lacks the umph and falls a few feet short of the critical hump. Thus, predictably, this story, like the roller coaster, slides backwards the last part of the novel. The last half is predictable and a bit unsatisfying. If you are a Ken Follett fan then you may find "Code to Zero" lacking the violence, intrigue and exotic passion (zero zing) that most of Follet's spy thrillers have had (Key to Rebecca - Eye of the Needle - Lie down with Lions). That said, though this was not a one night, "burn the midnight oil" read, it was a story that I wanted to finish in two nights. "Code to Zero" is worth the purchase. Recommended.
on December 17, 2002
Give it 3-1/2 stars but it is notup to the standard we hold Follettto. The plot is good but draggedout and has little suspense. Healternates with a group of friendsat Harvard and now as scientistsin the space program. Double agents are not revealed until theend where most of the action takesplace. Dr. Lucas, Luke, wakes up in apublic rest room looking like a bum. He has amnesa but his instincts tell him this is not howhe lives. By deduction he figureshe is a professional person with agood education. Most of the firstpart is learning who he is. Thenhe tries to determine why he wasgoing to Huntsville and WashingtonDC. when he should have been at the Cape preparing for the missile launching. The next part he spendstime with his old friend, trying to figure out who the double agents are and why he married his wife and why they don't have anychildren. Follett tries to putsuspense into all this but it lacks the sparkle so it becomesho-hum reading.He and his true love finally figure things out and swing intoaction to prevent the destructionof the missile.I had read this book before but did not remember it except certainparts seemed familiar. Guess itdidn't make much of an impressionthe first time around either.I would say skip this one or if you do want to read it, borrow itfron the library and spend yourmoney on a better book.I'm looking up the next book tomake sure I want to buy it..
on July 12, 2002
The book is a great read. Yeah i agree with many people that it wasn't exactly the "MASTERPIECE" people have come to expect from Ken Follet, but i supposed that's waht makes his other books, MASTERPIECES... (They can't all be masterpieces)
First i sort of agree with a Reviewer who wrote "I was appalled at all the anachronisms and mistakes"... and i would like to add another one i didn't quite see here (yet). Doesn't Billie at one point say something like... "nope, that's all she wrote!"... Is that in reference to the "Murder She Wrote"... Maybe i'm wrong but was "Murder She wrote" around in 1958???
I hope i don't sound like i didn't like the book. It was realy entertaining, and although at some points you did have to "swallow" what he was saying just for the story to continue, it was thick and hard at times... (LOTS of luck for one person in just 48 hours).
One thing i think that i can bring to this review table that i don't think i've read anybody say is that i think this book would (or could possibly have been) one of those "Typical Follet" books, (like needle, pillars, rebecca) if the story ended and Anthony was the good guy, and that Luke was in fact the bad guy (as Anthony was maintaining).
He had me convinced that Anthony was the bad guy far before it said it in black and white, so my normal thinking was : well, if he's got me so convinced that Anthony is the bad guy, and that luke is the good guy, then it must be the opposite...
I don't know: when the story ended, and i never saw that page turn saying "Anthony was right all along... it had been Luke who was the spy!"... That would have turned stuff around!
All together there are 3 stars because its a VERY entertaining book. And that's why he wrote it. Lost a star because its not a masterpiece, and one for all the crap i had to swallow to get through it, and so only those masterpieces should get the 5.
One last point: I dind't even bother to read the "Rocket" story that preceeded every chapter (pertaining to 1958). I waited until the last 35 pages to read back through, so it was fresh in my memory when the rocket actually launched... And i think that made it better...
on May 1, 2002
I really think Ken Follett is losing it. The last book of his that I read, "Night Over Water", had cartoon characters as its principal actors and a plot straight out of an old WWII movie - although I had to admit he did his research.
The problem is magnified here, with "Code to Zero". Again, Follett has done his research, there's no denying that - but this novel is just about as bad as "Night Over Water". The story starts out very well, and held my interest for quite a while. A man wakes up in a corner of Union Station in 1950's Washington DC, with no knowledge of how he got there - or of anything else before that moment. He's dressed like a bum, but his thoughts, instincts, and actions contradict that first impression. He sets out to discover who he is and how he got to Union Station, and therein lies Follett's tale.
But the initial interest I had in the story soon disintegrated when I discovered that "Code" was really nothing more than a potboiler spy story, something I thought Follett was incapable of writing until now. Basically this turned out to be a story of the heroic United States against the godless Communists, and while this does have some kind of weird but logical resonance after the events of September 11, this type of story has been done before - and much better (Arnaud DeBorchgrave's "The Spike" springs immediately to mind).
Follett has a new novel out in hardcover, and I'll reserve it at my local library. I'm willing to give him another chance - but my patience is wearing thin.
on January 27, 2002
"Eye of the Needle" was one of my favorite spy novels, so I was excited when I received "Code to Zero" for Christmas. As others have said, it is an amazingly quick read and an interesting story, albeit remarkably similar to Ludlum's "Bourne Identity."
The one thing that struck me throughout the book was that I felt like I was watching [reading] a made for TV movie. I suppose part of the reason could be the layout of the book - each chapter is one of three sub-stories, and you get a piece at a time. Since every third chapter (roughly) is a continuation of one sub-story, it's quite a page-turner. I think the other reason it felt like a "Made for TV Movie" is that the quality just wasn't there. "Eye of the Needle" was a much better book, and I would bet Follett spent twice as much time writing it.
On an airplane? Need a "quickie" for a vacation? This is the book for you. A good story, a quick read, but not one you'll be thinking about after you put it back on your bookshelf.
on January 7, 2002
I've read most of Follett's earlier books and truly enjoyed them, but I do not think he took much time to research the time period for this book nor the culture of the time. My biggest gripe is the dialogue--it is too British, and I do not believe swearing so easily slipped off the tongue in 1941 and 1958 as Follett delivers it in the dialogue--especially from ladies. We had a much more polite society in the U.S. back then than we do now. Manners were important, even if only for show.
Follett's ealier novels such as The Man from St. Petersburgh, and The Key to Rebecca were much better researched. One glaring error in this book was his description of "sandspur grass" with grass blades that slashed at the ankles. Not so--snadspurs may be from a grass, a weed actually, but the spurs are the seeds that stick into or onto just about anything that touches them. They can be very painful. I know, I am from Florida, and I hated sandspurs as a kid.
I think Follett was so successful as an author in his earlier works that he doesn't pay as much attention to it anymore and only produces something that will sell when he needs to pad his bank account a bit more. Too bad.
Even so, it is an entertaining read to pass the time with.
on April 13, 2001
As a "Baby Boomer", I can recall the race to keep up with the Soviets in the inital forays into outer space. I can remember Sputnik, "Mutnik" (the one with the dog) and all the other "-utniks". I recall that Explorer was a real turning point for the American space program. One in which we really crossed the Rubicon in the space race. The pressure on the U.S. was enormous. The launch of Explorer was delayed a couple of times. This latest effort by Ken Follett gives a "what if" scenario to what might have been.
"Code to Zero" is maybe a little short on depth of plot, but leave it to Follett to pack in the suspense and keep it moving. The flashbacks, as Luke works on regaining his memory, tell a nice tale in themselves. They show the idealism of college kids in the early 1940s and how that changes into bloodthirstiness in the early 1960s. It seemed like "spook" became the occupation du jour for these folks. And maybe that was a bit of a reach. One strong point, to my mind however, was the characterization. Anthony is completely Machiavellian as the villan. I especially enjoyed - and rooted for - the relationship between Bille and Luke. Maybe it was that naivete that the good guys should always win and nice guys will always get the girl - neither of which is necessarily true. Still, I think their relationship was touching the way it was told in flashback and, in the present, it was the hinge that the book turned on. As a scientist, I also have to tell you that I found the little snippets about the rocket, that Follett stuck at the begining of each chapter, down right fascinating.
Still, there were, shall we say, some inconsistencies. For example, I live in Northern Virginia and I can honestly say that I have never heard of the local police force in the Nation's Capital referred to as the Washington Police (It's the D.C. Police). Also, and this was more grevious to me, I can remember sitting up in July 1969 and watching the adventure that was Apollo 11 - not 1968 as Follett sets it in his epilogue. In July 1968, the Nation was mourning RFK and Dr. King. Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins weren't even known. Still, while this was not Follett's best, it wasn't his worst either, and I think it would make a good beach read.
on January 25, 2001
Having been a long-time fan of Mr Follett's early work, I was a bit disappointed by his last two novels (The Third Twin & The Hammer of Eden).
"Code to Zero", which is again set in the Eastern US, starts off quite well and is an entertaining read over all, but after finishing it (which doesn't take very long at barely 300 pages net) I found it suffered from the same flaws that Ken Follett's other recent novels had: it's just too superficial.
The lost memory idea is not really new, but a gifted author like Mr Follett should have made so much more out of a pretty simple storyline. Like its two predecessors, "Code to Zero" reads like a TV-thriller script which includes a strangely shallow love interest sideline.
I'd rather wait two or even three years for a new Follett novel that's up to the standards of "The Pillars of the Earth", "Night Over Water" or "Eye of the Needle" than be slightly disappointed again by another rush-job like the new book.
I really wish this review could've been more positive, but in comparison to earlier Follett classics "Code to Zero" is a terribly flat affair.
You might check out a "A Tourist in the Yucatan" a different kind of thriller. I liked it!
on January 21, 2001
Follet sets this story on the eve of the launch of a U.S. rocket as the U.S. plays catch-up to Soviet Union. The space race is heating up and the U.S. is struggling to stay in the game. Code to Zero opens with a pair of apparently homeless bums waking up in the bathroom of a Washington DC train station. The reader quickly learns that these two are not as they would appear at first glance. One has lost his memory and does not know who he is or anything about his life. The story unfolds with the amnesiac seeking to learn his identity, perplexed by his inability to recall anything from his past but seemingly able to react instinctively to increasingly precarious and dangerous circumstances.
While it does not take a rocket scientist to predict the outcome of the book, Follet nonetheless provides the reader with interesting characters and an entertaining, fast-moving story. With the flashback chapters spread throughout the book, Follet has created an effective way to bring out the past of Dr. Lucas and provide the context for current events. This is not Follet's best effort. It is, however, well worth the time.
on December 27, 2000
"Code to Zero" is a Cold War thriller about a group of college students whose lives overlap over a period of years. In a series of flashbacks from the 1940's, alternating with the present (1958, to be exact), Follett shows how a bunch of carefree college students go on to play crucial roles in the rivalry between the U. S. and the Soviet Union. The U. S. S. R. has launched Sputnik, and the United States is attempting to keep pace by launching Explorer I. The prestige of the United States hinges on the success of this launch. However, someone may be attempting to sabotage the launch, thereby damaging the U. S. space program. "Code Zero" starts out well. I was interested in the lives of Luke, Elspeth, Billie and Anthony, who are attractive and intelligent college students with big plans for the future. However, as the book progresses, it begins to sag. Follett allows the plot to sink into melodramatic and predictable plotting, and the dialogue becomes banal. The ending (which should be exciting) lacks suspense, since it is obvious how the plot will turn out. Too bad, because the book started out as good campy fun.