Owen is full of fear. He hates flying, maybe because he hasn’t done it quite so often. But there was no way of avoiding his best friend’s funeral, he has to go to New York to attend the service. How could he end on this plane? Owen Whiting has fought his way from his non-academic family up to Oxford where he spends his first months mostly alone and an outsider. Only when Zach approaches and befriends him do things change. The young American has seen something in Owen that was hidden to the others, Owen is his equal, he can share his thoughts and is ready to transgress the boundaries of life. Still, Owen cannot fully comprehend how it all could have ended like this, maybe he will find answers across the ocean.
“The Zero and the One” keeps the secrets about Zach for quite some time; the structure of narrating the events surrounding the funeral and disrupting them with narratives of the past, postpones the clear picture and the full understanding of the events repeatedly. The beginning was rather slow, nevertheless I liked Owen’s background story, his family, his own expectations of life and his fight for a higher education. After the boys have met, the focus shifts a bit and the whole novel becomes a lot more philosophical. Their treasure hunt for the not so famous author of “The Zero and the One” already provides some suspense, however, it is only in the third part that the action really accelerates and Ryan Ruby can surprise the reader. Never would I have imagined such a story as the one that lies beneath it all.
To some extent, it is a classic coming-of-age novel, on the other hand, we also have quite a typical story of an ambitious young person from a poor background who suddenly enters a completely new sphere where he does not fit in at all and where intelligence and thirst for knowledge just aren’t enough. Thirdly, there is a psychological thrill particularly towards the end which I found most intriguing and fascinating. Zach is the character who can enthral the reader and who is not easily tangible, but here, the protagonist has to offer much more than some well-known cliché.
For quite some time I thought “The Zero and the One” was a good and entertaining novel. The closer I got to the climax and the end, the more I was drawn into it and spellbound.