With many of today's thrillers being staged in the high-technology, high-stakes world of the urban workplace and the Internet, Ken Follett's "Code To Zero" may appear to be a little bit of an anachronism - it's set in 1958, against the background of the space race, and delves deep into the worlds of espionage and rocket science.
In "Code To Zero", a young man wakes up in a Washington, D.C. train station with no memory of who he is or what he does. He cannot remember his name, his family, his occupation or, indeed, how he came to dressed as a bum. As he wanders the street, trying to come to grips with his situation, long-buried instincts kick in, and he quickly realizes that he is being watched and followed by a team of organized undercover operatives.
It is only when he reads a newspaper, and sees an article on the upcoming launch of Explorer I, the first American space satellite, that things become clearer. As he slowly discovers his true identity - Dr. Claude "Luke" Lucas, a well-known scientist at the Cape Canaveral space center - it becomes increasingly important to him to regain his memory before the space shuttle blasts off. With the help of some old friends (in particular, his college sweetheart Billie Josephson), Luke begins to uncover the events surrounding to his memory loss and realizes that he is up against a powerful man - his old friend, Anthony Carroll, now a renegade CIA agent who will do anything to capture Luke. As the two clash, Luke finds that he is in a battle where friends turn to foes, and the most dangerous enemies a man can have are the ones closest to him...
A rip-cracking yarn combining politics, espionage, and romance, "Code To Zero" takes you on a roller-coaster ride of cross and double-cross, where old friends become new enemies and powerful forces collide in a high-stakes battle for control of the final frontier. Follett's character portraits are excellent, and he infuses each character's motivations with a unique and distinct identity by overlapping segments of their previous lives with the action taking place in the present. Various nuggets of information on rocketry are also scattered through the book, and Follett builds the pace and suspense all the way to a crackling climax.This article was first published on 17 Jan 2001.