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Book Review- Patient Zero

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, one of the things I love about my job as a writer for Comic Book Resources is that it puts me in touch with a lot of cool and creative people. It also has introduced me to the work of a lot of fabulous prose novelists who go on to pen comics. My CBR work introduced me to the novels of Richard K Morgan, and Charlie Huston. It also introduced me to the work of another writer whose quickly becoming another one of my favorites, Jonathan Maberry.

In his work on comics like “Black Panther” and the one-shot “Punisher MAX: Naked Kill” Maberry showed he could write tough and charismatic men and women. From there I went on to try his first novels, the “Pine Deep” horror trilogy. In that series of novels he showed he could write tough but believable characters fighting back against supernatural evil. It was an epic story for me it was almost a modern day horrific “Lord of the Rings.” So I was very curious to try Maberry’s latest series of prose novels starring Joe Ledger, an ex-soldier turned cop who gets recruited to fight techno terror. I just finished the first novel “Patient Zero,” and I’m happy to say I enjoyed it. It read like a mash up of the best elements of the TV series “24” and the video game series “Resident Evil.”

“Patient Zero” begins with Ledger, in his final days as a cop, participating in a raid in a warehouse suspected of terrorist activity. He displays courage, cunning, and incredible combat skills. Several days later a shadowy government agency called the Department of Military Sciences picks up Joe and puts him in the same room as one of the terrorists from the warehouse raid. The problem is though that Joe killed that terrorist during the raid. The terrorist has now risen from the dead as a zombie thanks to a mysterious plague.

The head of the DMS, the enigmatic Mr. Church, offers Joe a position with the agency and after a moment of reluctance he accepts. The hunt then begins for the source of the plague and the terrorists behind it before they release it and destroy society. It’s a fun and exciting story that’s incredibly well paced and full of well choreographed action scenes. Admittedly in the early part of the book there were some slow scenes where Maberry spent a little too much time focusing on villains instead of his more interesting characters like Ledger, Mr. Church, and the soldiers that make up Ledger’s commando force, Echo Team.

In Ledger, Maberry has a particularly compelling protagonist. He’s extremely capable and dangerous soldier, but he’s still human. At certain points of the story Ledger’s moral cop persona bumps up against into his take no prisoners soldier persona. Plus he’s a guy who feels. Early on we learn a horrible tragedy happened to him when he was young. Plus at different points in the story Ledger comes face to face with some pretty horrific stuff. In the end he weathers it and because it’s the first book in the series you know he’ll be back for more. There is a sense though that Ledger can only keep up these adventures for so long; that sooner or later the horror may even be too much for him. You know until that point though he’ll keep sticking his neck out and that vulnerability and sense of selflessness makes him a pretty compelling hero.

Maberry also surrounds Ledger with an interesting cast of allies. I’ve already mentioned Mister Church and the soldiers of Echo Team. There’s also Doctor Rudy Sanchez, Joe’s best friend and psychiatrist. Rudy also get’s dragged into the shadowy world of the DMS. He may have not be a soldier but Rudy proves to be just as effective and capable character as Joe. At one point he even stands his ground and protects a group of children from a zombie terrorist.

I mentioned that early on the passages with the villains tended to drag a little but but as the book picked up the villains became more interesting. The main villains of the story were violent Muslim fanatics who came up with a plague that turns people into zombies, but they weren’t the only villains of the book. I liked that. In fact the terrorists scheme is made possible by a greedy corporate CEO who wants to exploit the zombie plague to make a profit. It made things feel complex and interesting.

So “Patient Zero” was packed with fun characters and an exciting story that blended moments of zombie horror with exciting action scenes. The hand to hand combat scenes were particularly compelling. Maberry is an experienced martial artist and you can tell from his his hand to hand fights. The way he describes them feel authentic and energy charged.

When you pack all those elements together you get a fun and very cool story. So I loved “Patient Zero” and look forward to Joe Ledger and Echo Team’s next clash with techno terrorists and monster makers

Categories: Book Review, Joe Ledger
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