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The Zero Game Hardcover – Bargain Price, January 20, 2004

3.6 out of 5 stars 191 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, January 20, 2004
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Meltzer credits 143 people in his acknowledgments, a testament to massive research involving everything from the smallest details of our government's inner workings to the scientific complexities of chaos theory and advanced neutrino research. He's far too seasoned a pro (The Tenth Justice; The Millionaires) to ever let readers bog down in minutiae, though, using his impressive background material as rocket fuel for this rip-roaring novel of government intrigue. Best friends Matthew Mercer and Harris Sandler have worked for years as professional Capitol Hill staffers. With boredom and burnout threatening, they've joined a secret group of other like-minded workers to play the Zero Game, which uses congressional voting and government administrative procedure as the basis for placing bets. "We don't change the laws, or pass bad legislation, or stroke our evil goatees and overthrow democracy as we know it. We play at the margins; where it's safe-and where it's fun." The two decide to bet their life savings when a seemingly innocent appropriations item, the sale of an abandoned South Dakota gold mine, becomes part of the game. Because of his senior position as an appropriations committee staffer, Matthew is sure he has a lock on this one. Things go horribly wrong, and soon Harris and Viv Parker, a young Senate page, are on the run, fleeing from hired killer Martin Janos. Their flight takes them to the abandoned gold mine, where they find more mystery and near death 8,000 feet below the surface of the earth. Janos, their nemesis, is relentless, as is the action, and readers will be left breathless.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

When Matthew Mercer confides to his best friend, Harris Sandler, that he's thinking of leaving his cushy job as a senior staffer on Capitol Hill, Harris convinces him to stay by inviting him to play the Zero Game, an anonymous wagering game where you bet on the likelihood of some piece of legislation passing. It's a silly game, but the stakes are minimal, so Matthew joins in, enjoying the diversion and finding the anonymity intriguing. The bet in front of them now is a gimme, especially since Matthew can control its outcome, so the pair decides to up the ante and go for broke. Trouble is, there's another bidder out there (Who else could have such an interest?), and both Matthew and Harris sense that this bet just might be their last. They've learned the hard way that there's no one they can trust and have no choice but to find out who's behind the now-murderous game. Coming to their aid is an unlikely savior, a teenage Senate page who can duck in and out of private offices without raising suspicion. Packed with plenty of backroom D.C. ambience and lots of action, the novel also boasts improved plotting and character development since Meltzer's last high-concept best-seller, The Millionaires (2001). Mary Frances Wilkens
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: Meltzer, Brad
  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Warner Books; Second Printing edition (January 20, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446530980
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (191 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,724,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jamie S. Rich on February 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Matthew Mercer and Harris Sandler work on Capitol Hill. Matthew is an assistant to a Congressman, and Harris is the youngest chief of staff ever hired by a Senator. Both young men are very bright, but they are a bit bored and looking for some laughs. They decide to play "The Zero Game," in which they place bets on their ability to push through meaningless pieces of legislation. No one gets hurt, the guys can make a few bucks, and it's all in good fun. Unfortunately for Mercer and Sandler, there's more to the "zero game" than meets the eye. The seemingly trivial pursuit proves to be extremely dangerous for its participants.
Brad Meltzer, the author of "The Zero Game," does well when he discusses the inner workings of Congress, especially the machinations of lobbyists, the horse trading that occurs during appropriations meetings, and the quid pro quos that grease the wheels of politics.
Unfortunately, it takes more than this to make a successful political thriller. The plot of "The Zero Game" is both far-fetched and repetitious. Brad Meltzer has written a book of over four hundred and fifty pages, with numerous descriptions of one chase sequence after another.
To his credit, Meltzer's good guys, Harris and Vivian Parker, a seventeen-year-old Senate page, are affable, intelligent, and engaging characters. They are tough and idealistic, and they put up a good fight. It is also refreshing that Meltzer does not include a hokey romantic subplot in this novel. However, the villains are straight out of central casting, the dialogue is stilted, and the unrealistic story goes on far too long. As a political thriller, "The Zero Game" ultimately misses the mark.
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Format: Hardcover
I read the Millionaires first, which despite it's absurd ending, I enjoyed. I read First Counsel(which honestly did not stay very long in my mind) and The Tenth Justice next (have not read Dead Even) and it was clear that Meltzer had a ways to go--good ideas, some sloppy execution...however, if you line up the books in the order they written, he has grown. This was a really interesting and original story. The best part of the book is the "game" (hilarious and ingenious) and the inside look at Congress (his research is outstanding). The characters, Matthew, Viv, and Harris are among his best. It is cool see a multicultural cast of characters. The problem? Well, the biggest was the fact that the two chase scenes are FAR too long. He had this problem in other books, but these went on and on. It would have been better to hear more about the Midas Project (I need to be vague so as not to ruin the book) and the political stories behind it. I would have enjoyed more character driven issues and less running around. And, as another reviewer so smartly noted, the dust jacket gets many things wrong--particularly Viv's age--which is 17, not 16. I must commend Meltzer on his restraint in plot twists--there is a whopper early on--but he uses them wisely--another sign of growth. I hear he has recently moved to Florida. I hope he does not lose his ear for the political or urban thriller.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
After starting off on a high note, The Zero Game quickly falls into the same plot structure as DaVinci code, ie. Find a clue...run, run, run...find a clue...run, run, run...on and on for five hundred pages or so. I did find some of the Washington "insider" stuff to be interesting, so kudos to Meltzer for his extensive research. But as far as the story goes, I wasn't buying it for a second. Unfortunately the entire plot hinges on a character who is supposed to be brilliant acting like an idiot throughout. At no point was I convinced that the protagonist couldn't simply call the authorities and then hide out until the whole matter was resolved. And the villains are so ridiculous and one-dimensional it's not even funny. You've seen these guys a million times. Based on the research that went into this book, I wouldn't write Meltzer off, but he definitely needs to dedicate more of his time to crafting a compelling story with believable characters.
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