Code to Zero

Code to Zero

2000 | Thriller | 496 pages

Code to Zero is a fast-paced thriller about the satellite space race in the Cold War, from number one bestselling author Ken Follett.

A Man with No Memory
A man wakes up to find himself lying on the ground in a railway station, his mind stripped bare of all recollection. He has no idea how he got there; he does not even know his own name. Convinced he is a drunken down and out, it isn’t until a newspaper report about a satellite launch catches his eye, that he suspects all is not what it seems . . .
A Race for the Future
The year is 1958, and America is about to launch its first satellite in a desperate attempt to match the Soviet Sputnik and regain the lead in the space race. As Luke Lucas gradually unravels the mystery of his amnesia, he realizes that his fate is bound up with that of the rocket that stands ready on launch pad 26B at Cape Canaveral.
A World on the Brink
As he relearns the story of his life, he uncovers long-kept secrets about his wife, his best friend and the woman he once loved more than life itself. But even more terrifying is the dark secret they tried to make him forget, a secret that threatens America’s survival.
First chapter

5 A.M


The Jupiter C missile stands on the launch pad at Complex 26, Cape Canaveral. For secrecy, it is draped in vast canvas shrouds that hide everything but its tail, which is that of the Army’s familiar Redstone rocket. But the rest of it, under the concealing cloak, is quite unique . . . He woke up scared. Worse than that: he was terrified. His heart was pounding, his breath came in gasps, and his body was taut. It was like a nightmare, except that waking brought no sense of relief. He felt that something dreadful had happened, but he did not know what it was. Continue reading

Ken's view

Code to Zero is an amnesia story. I got the idea from a book about a CIA research project, top secret of course, in which the agency tried in real life to find drugs that would make people forget things. Luke, the hero who loses his memory has to rediscover his entire life by detective work. He doesn’t get his memory back. Luke is a mathematician, I wanted to write about scientists, because there are not many novels about scientists.


So I looked for a period in history when the work scientists were doing was very important on the world stage. And I decided on the early space race when USSR had put the Sputnik into orbit and the Americans’ Vanguard rocket had blown up on the launch pad.


Luke’s loss of memory turns out to be bound up with his work for the space programme and a plot to sabotage the Explorer, the first American Satellite.


“Focused, fast-moving . . . this spy thriller is Follett at his best.” – People

“Follett weaves the threads of his narrative together, tying them into an unexpected and story-resolving knot at the end . . . gripping.” – The New York Times

“Fresh and fast-paced. . . . Follett is no slouch at keeping the pages flying by. He maintains a brisk clip throughout and creates compelling and likable characters.” – San Francisco Chronicle

“Follett has total control of his fast-paced story line.” – The Orlando Sentinel

“Absorbing, tightly plotted. . . . Suspense junkies won’t be disappointed.” – Publishers Weekly