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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
It's early in 1958. Reeling from the Soviet Union's Sputnik success, the United States struggles desperately to catch up. Thus far, those efforts have resulted in a series of spectacular failures. Now the hopes of a nation, and the future of the U.S. space program, hinge on the successful launch of Explorer I, scheduled to lift off on January 29th.
The odds against a successful launch, however, are even more formidable than anyone anticipated. Technical obstacles were to be expected. Internal problems were not. A Soviet mole, his role until now limited to passing American technology to Moscow, has been instructed to sabotage the launch.
With the future of the free world at stake, only one man can foil the Soviet plan. Unfortunately, with only two days until launch, he doesn't even know about it. That man, you see, has just awakened in a Washington, D.C., subway station, smelling of alcohol -- apparently one of the numerous homeless who have found shelter there. He can't remember who he is or how he got there. Armed with only a single clue -- a fellow traveler addresses him as "Luke" -- he begins a perilous search for his identity, a search that ultimately leads him into direct conflict with a Soviet spy network intent on preventing U.S. entry into space.
Fueled by this intriguing premise, Code to Zero hurtles to its surprising climax with blinding speed, taking readers for a hair-raising ride. Although some may find it a bit melodramatic (perhaps intentionally, Follett's writing style echoes that of novels written during the early days of the space race, and the success of the hero's search often hinges on coincidence and breathtaking, intuitive leaps of logic), most will find Code to Zero an enjoyable read, if only because of Follett's painstaking attention to detail -- he provides copious information about the technical side of the launch, and about the state of psychology at the time -- and the intriguing supporting cast he has assembled. Although Follett is not quite at the top of his form here (look to Eye of the Needle, The Pillars of the Earth, Night over Water, and On Wings of Eagles for that), Code to Zero is head-and-shoulders above most of its current competition. After three decades in the business, Follett knows what buttons to push, and when to push them.
Hank Wagner is a book reviewer for Cemetery Dance magazine and The Overlook Connection.