Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Zero Game

The Zero Game by Brad Meltzer
Grand Central Publishing, 2004
Hardcover, 480 pages
ISBN-13: 9780446530989

The New York Times bestselling author of The Millionaires and The First Counsel returns to Washington, D.C., with the story of an insider's game that turns deadly. Matthew Mercer and Harris Sandler are best friends who have plum jobs as senior staffers to well-respected congressmen. But after a decade in Washington, idealism has faded to disillusionment, and they're bored. Then one of them finds out about the clandestine Zero Game. It starts out as good fun-a simple wager between friends. But when someone... ends up dead, Harris realize[s] the game is far more sinister than [he] ever imagined-and that [he's] about to be the game's next victims. On the run, [he] turn[s] to the only person [he] can trust: a 16-year-old Senate page who can move around the Capitol undetected. As a ruthless killer creeps closer, this idealistic page not only holds the key to saving their lives, but is also determined to redeem them in the process. Come play The Zero Game-you can bet your life on it.
My Thoughts:

The first thing you need to know about The Zero Game by Brad Meltzer is that the cover synopsis did not match the book. For my review I edited the synopsis to make it closer to the reality.

While the game Matthew and Harris are playing is intriguing premise, it is not well developed. Most of the book encompasses one chase scene after another, including numerous narrow escapes and attacks by a professional killer. Add to these failings the implausibility that a Congressional staffer would turn to a teenage Senate page for help and also decide to travel across the country with the page while a killer pursues them, and you have an unbelievable plot.

But it gets worse. Sending his protagonists flying on a private plane to check out an old abandoned mine in South Dakota, they go to the Homestake mine. The Homestake Mine, in Lead not Meltzer's "Leed" in the book, is actually, as I thought, not abandoned. For all the research Meltzer supposedly did this is an easy fact to check.
I have a free tip: If you need an abandoned mine for a fictional novel make one up rather than using a real mine. You're welcome.

Now, the good part of The Zero Game is that it's a good vacation/airplane book. All you'll need to do is suspend disbelief and don't expect any great character development. Keep your expectations low and just enjoy the action - or you'll spend your time finding problems with it.
Recommended - with conditions


I don't belong here. I haven't for years. When I first came to Capitol Hill to work for Congressman Nelson Cordell, it was different. But even Mario Andretti eventually gets bored driving two hundred miles an hour every single day. Especially when you're going in a circle. I've been going in circles for eight years. Time to finally leave the loop. opening

Still standing at the urinal, Harris stops. His green eyes narrow, and he studies me with that same mischievous look that once got me thrown in the back of a police car when we were undergrads at Duke. "C'mon, Matthew, this is Washington, D.C.-fun and games are being played everywhere," he teases. "You just have to know where to find them." pg. 3-4

"You wanted to bring the fun back, right?"
"Depends what kinda fun you're talking about."
Pushing himself off the wall, Harris grins and heads for the door. "Trust me, it'll be more fun than you've had in your entire life. No lie." pg. 9

In quiet rooms around the Capitol, the scene is the same. Forget the image of fat-cat Congressmen horse-trading in cigar-smoke-filled backrooms. This is how the sausage is made, and this is how America's bank account is actually spent: by four staffers sitting around a well-lit conference table without a Congressman in sight. Your tax dollars at work. Like Harris always says: The real shadow government is staff. pg. 17-18

In fact, as Harris explained it when he first extended the invitation, the game itself started years ago as a practical joke. pg. 19

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