ZERO by Eric Van Lustbader
Kirkus Star


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Ten tons of martial arts chop-socky by the master of rice-paper blood and thunder (Jian, Shan, The Ninja, The Miko, etc.). Zero begins with several pages touched by Lustbader's newly heightened sensitivity to fine writing (as opposed to his usual wash-purple orientalia), but as his plot takes hold the clichÉs spill out like bees from a tipped hive. The stow sifts the same zippy comic trivia as before--and the paste dialogue never allows a human feeling. Here, the most alluring item is the title character, a shadowy assassin whom no one--including the reader--can see when he strikes (assassin Zero is named for the paralyzing state of being that numbs a martial-arts opponent and leaves him defenseless). We first meet Zero killing the hero's father, who is an American spy named Civet (actually Philip Doss). Young Michael then inherits father's mission, which is to thwart a KGB effort to have Japan invade China and use an atom bomb in Central China. The KGB has infiltrated the secret Japanese Society of Ten Thousand Shadows, the Jiban, which is also engaged in battle with the Yakuza, the band of gangsters forming the Japanese Mafia. Meanwhile, the late Philip had stolen the Jiban's secret plans and hidden them in a Shinto monastery. So: the Jiban kidnaps Philip's daughter Audrey, to get its plans back, while Michael now battles both the Jiban and the Yakuza to regain his sister. He also falls for the mysterious Elaine, whose daughter has been kidnapped. And Michael's mother Lillian consummates decades of adultery with a KGB chieftan by defecting. Who is the fantastic Zero?--someone very intimate to Michael. Almost supernaturally junky--a dead thing, utterly lifeless yet blushing from the undertaker's brush--and a certain whiz in the bookstores.

Pub Date: May 3rd, 1988
Publisher: Random House