Code to Zero is one of Ken Follett’s thrillers set in the Cold War time period. Unexpectedly enough, since the novel itself was released in 2000, so not many contemporary authors would have been writing Cold War-thrillers at the time. So, did this experiment prove successful for Ken Follett?
The story starts with the protagonist, Luke waking up in a public rest room, with no memories of how he got there, or for that matter, no memories at all about himself. His clothing and surroundings suggest to him that he’s a delinquent and an alcoholic, and this guess is substantiated by his companion Pete. In his quest to recover his memories, he makes some ground-breaking discoveries about himself and his profession.
The timeline is set a few months after the USSR’s launch of the Sputnik satellite, with the USA scrambling to catch up to their rivals in the space-race. With their first attempt at putting their own satellite in space failing miserably [ check Vanguard TV3], USA is desperate for a successful satellite launch, and all their hopes were pinned on the Explorer 1. So the question begs itself; what does Luke, a delinquent in all appearances, have to do with the launch of Explorer 1?
The book, although about 450 pages long, is pretty fast-paced, with the plot switching between the time-lines of the present and the past, where the reader gets to know of Luke and his close-knit group of friends. Alongside this, is the continuous rotation of the POVs between Luke and Co. The cool thing about Code to Zero is the snippets of information presented by the author at the beginning of each chapter, chronicling the engineering and physics going into the making of Explorer 1.
Overall, I would say this is a fun novel to read, written by one of the masters of the genre, as we all know. But you cannot compare this to the narrative brilliance of Pillars of the Earth[one of my all-time favorites], and I maintain that Ken Follett’s true genius lies in historical fiction, at least from my own limited exposure to his novels.
RATING : 7.7/10