After dabbling with Indian literature followed by a period of lull, I decided to resume reading with Ken Follett’s Code to Zero. Infamous for writing some of the best spy fictions, thrillers and historical sagas, Ken Follett is a master storyteller, the one that compels the readers’ to put everything on hold till the very end.
Published in 2000, Code to Zero is a story of the scientist named Luke who wakes up at the Union Station with his memory expunged. Following the trajectory of Manchurian Candidate,
the book begins with a promise of exploring CIA’s mind controlling techniques, however, Follett’s fast forwards the narrative to the American space program in the 50’s and the race to surmount the Soviet Union to control the outer space.
Set during the cold war era, the action in the book moves around a few key players, each with a different agenda, propaganda and loyalty and deception at their disposal to hoodwink others.
Set in January 1958, the early dawn of the space race, shortly after the Russia’s launch of its first satellite, Sputnik into orbit, Code to Zero moves around the America’s struggle to launch Explorer I satellite to catch up with Soviets. Delayed twice at the last minute before launch due to weather, Explorer I is America’s last hope to conquer the outer space and consequently, the future. The narrative delineates the story of the space scientist, Dr. Claude Lucas, the only man that can save the America’s space program, who however, is suffering from global amnesia. Waking up at the Union Station, dressed like a vagabond, Luke promptly picks up the threads of his previous life and unveils the conspiracy behind his memory loss. Relying on his instincts and moving in shadows, he reconnects with his first love, Dr. Billie Josephson. Unraveling the clues to his identity and past life, he discerns the CIA’s personal agenda for wanting him to remain amnesic which is led by none other than his closest friend, Anthony Carroll.
Travelling in murkier waters and battling against time, Luke unearths dark secrets, the ones that can unhinge the agendas of very powerful people. Journeying from Washington to Alabama and Cape Canaveral, foiling numerous attempts on his life and remaining one step ahead of his pursuers, Luke manages to salvage the situation at the last minute despite all hindrances and sabotages the machinations employed by his opponents and facilitate the successful launch of the satellite that put America back into the race to conquer outer space.
Although written by the seasoned author, the book comes as a bit of disappointment.
The story commences on a promising note and progresses on a rapid pace, replete with intrigues and conspiracies. However, as the book gains momentum, it follows the trail of a lackluster espionage fiction with drab ending. Though Code to Zero is an interesting read, it is not as intriguing and chilling as Eye of the Needle, and definitely not as electrifying.
Title: Code to Zero
Author: Ken Follett
Publisher: Pan Publishing
About the Author
Ken Follett burst onto the book world in 1978 with Eye of the Needle, a taut and original thriller with a memorable woman character in the central role. The book won the Edgar award and became an outstanding film.He went on to write four more bestselling thrillers: Triple; The Key to Rebecca; The Man from St Petersburg and Lie Down with Lions. He also wrote On Wings of Eagles, the true story of how two employees of Ross Perot were rescued from Iran during the revolution of 1979. This book was made into a miniseries. He then surprised readers by radically changing course with The Pillars of the Earth, a novel about building a cathedral in the Middle Ages. Published in September 1989 to rave reviews, it was on the New York Times bestseller list for eighteen weeks. It also reached the No. 1 position on lists in Canada, Great Britain and Italy, and was on the German bestseller list for six years. (Courtesy: Goodreads)
To quote Ken Follett
“Trusting someone was like holding a little water in your cupped hands – it was so easy to spill the water, and you could never get it back.”
“Man who betrayed you once would betray you twice.”
“The greater their ignorance, the stronger their opinions.”
“And here’s my advice to you. If you get the chance of the mad kind of love, grab it with both hands, and to hell with the consequences.”
“You never get cheered for telling people the situation is not as simple as they think.”