From veteran spymeister Follett (The Hammer of Eden, 1998, etc.), the story of a the space race that never gets off the ground.
Amnesia is the engine Follett chooses to drive his latest and, not unexpectedly, the worn-out thing sputters. Dr. Luke Lucas, waking up on the cold, hard floor of a public toilet in Union Station, Washington, D.C.—headachy, nauseous, shabbily dressed—wonders how he got there. Well, thereby hangs the tale. It’s January 1958, mid–Cold War, and the Soviets have already orbited Sputnik. The Americans, intent on catching up, are set to launch the first US space satellite. Rocket scientist Luke is central to the success of the effort, in part because of his brilliant mathematical mind, but also because he’s accidentally stumbled on a plot to keep Explorer I from ever leaving its Cape Canaveral pad. Determined to block Luke’s attempt to block their attempt to block a launch, Communist agents have hijacked him and administered memory-robbing drugs, which explains his rude awakening. If that doesn’t work, they plan to knock him off him. Why not simply kill him and be done with it? More efficient, true, but a certain strategically placed CIA mole happens to have been Luke’s Harvard classmate, and at first he chooses friendship over pragmatism. So, though Luke no longer knows what he knew, the game’s afoot as our hero, in hiding, strives to retrieve enough of his memory to figure out why old pals and former lovers are now bent on betrayal, while the desperate Commies seek him here, there, and everywhere.
Full of misplaced Cold War nostalgia and dreary, threadbare characters. And really now, amnesia? In this day and age? With a straight face?