It's tough to review a Brad Meltzer book. Any discussion of the plot is going to give too much away. Over drinks, I was attempting to tell a friend about THE ZERO GAME. She hadn't started reading it yet, and I was midway through. "Oh, you're going to love it," I said. "The premise alone is enough to hook you."
"Don't tell me," she said.
"No, no, seriously," I pushed. "I won't ruin it. You see, these guys who work in congress as aides and stuff, they have this game. It's super secret, and they bet on legislation, guessing the outcome of votes and stuff."
"That's too much, stop."
"Well, you can imagine from that all the different ways Meltzer can take it."
"Seriously. I don't want to know anymore."
"No," I said. "You don't get it. That's information you get just on the first ten pages. I didn't spoil anything. The book is packed with twists and turns, probably more than any of Brad's other books. By page fifty, you're going to be so sucked in; you're never going to want to put it down."
And it's true. In the first fifty pages of a 460-page thriller, there is already one turn of events so shocking that you start the next chapter fully expecting to discover Meltzer is messing with you. "No," you say, "he CAN'T do that." But he does! And at that point, THE ZERO GAME is just getting revved up. The rest of the novel is a mad, breathless dash to find the answer to the sort of convoluted plot only people who are part of the US government could dream up!
THE ZERO GAME is full of Meltzer's usual narrative tricks. Shifting points-of-view, untrustworthy characters that switch allegiances at the flip of a page, young idealists, and a hero (or two) pushed out of their comfort zone, suddenly finding themselves on a run for their lives, having to scramble to find the strength and skill to survive. It boggles my mind that there hasn't yet been a movie adaptation of one of Brad's books. THE ZERO GAME was easily more exciting than any modern film I saw last year. It's a popcorn thriller, an action-packed suspense story that doesn't need special effects or the chiseled features of a $20M paycheck to excite. Proof positive that there's nothing like a good book to get the imagination--and the adrenaline--pumping.