"Patient Zero," Jonathan Maberry

Pros: Fast action, complex plotting
Cons: Took a little while to get to know some of the characters
Rating: 3.5 out of 5


Joe Ledger knows he’s a good cop. But when he has to kill a terrorist that he killed the week before, his world starts to change. He becomes drawn into the Department of Military Science, a covert agency that is responsible for protecting the United States from terrorist threats. Together he and his team are looking for the terrorists that are attempting to infiltrate the States with a new bioterror weapon that turns people into zombies. It’s a race against time; a plan that has been years in the making is in motion and there is a traitor in their midst. Can Joe and his team stop the terrorists, or will this be the end of Western civilization?

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been on a little bit of a zombie kick, but when I saw this book I simply had to pick it up. Zombies as a terrorist’s weapon? Yes, please. The book, however, didn’t seem to reach its full potential until about halfway through. Maberry spends almost ninety pages getting Joe Ledger considering and then joining the Department of Military Science. I understand that it relays a lot of important background information, but the pace felt as if it dragged a little.

It also took a little while to begin to understand how some of the characters work. We get to take a peek at the villains relatively early on during the book, but I have to admit that the glimpses left me wondering why one of them was there. I can understand religious fundamentalism, that doesn’t need too much background, but I had to stop and wonder what a multi-billionaire was doing in the picture. Maberry seems to like to keep his readers waiting for explanations.

Another explanation I had to wait for was the discussion of how the zombie (or “walker”) virus worked. We catch an early reference to prion disease, but that’s about it. When I did manage to find the explanation, I had to read it twice before I actually started to understand it. In all fairness I must admit that I’m not as strong in biology as I could be, so that could have been a part of my incomprehension. It is very obvious, however, that Maberry has done his research.

The attention to detail apparent in Maberry’s research is apparent in his writing as well.  Apart from the details paid to various technological weapons and gadgets, Maberry even lets us know what happens to Joe’s cat, Cobbler. One of the DMS crew retrieves him from Joe’s home and brings him to Joe’s new quarters.

The action scenes are phenomenal. Maberry is able to narrate fights in a way that leaves you on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen. During a fight at a crab plant, I was completely sucked in, picturing the operation in my head as the team split up. What really amazed me, though, was the intensity that Maberry managed to convey through well-chosen words. He has a gift for describing battle, and Joe is also a top-notch warrior. When you combine Joe’s battle skills and Maberry’s prose, you wind up with a highly-addicting read.

This was a book that I came to enjoy after the slow and slightly confusing start. The action became hot and intense, and the plot (zombies excluded) seemed eerily possible. If you’re looking for action and intrigue that will keep you on the edge of your seat, this is it.

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One comment on “"Patient Zero," Jonathan Maberry
  1. heather says:

    I definitely agree with your assessment of the various parts of the book. The one detail that actively frustrated me, though, was the name puzzle late in the book. It felt as though it was easy enough that such a bright group of people should have solved it well before they did. Apart from that, though, I really enjoyed the book! And while the beginning was slow, it was at least interesting enough that I didn’t find myself putting down the book to go do other things. In particular I appreciated, also, that the bad guys were more interesting than your standard money-seeking nuts and zealous religious fanatics.

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