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Book Review- Extinction Machine

These past few years Spring has brought more than just nice weather my way. It’s also brought another installment in Jonathan Maberry’s incredibly fun and exciting Joe Ledger series of novels. After last year’s “Assassin’s Code” I had the theory that Maberry was slowly setting up Joe and his fellow soldiers in the Department of Military Sciences as defenders against the supernatural and things that go bump in the night, but now having finished the latest Ledger novel “Extinction Machine” I have a feeling that Maberry is doing something much more exciting and larger; setting up Joe and the DMS as the last line of defense against all manner of weird, and otherworldly threats.

Ex Machine

I don’t want to spoil any of the fun reveals, but the otherworldly threat that Joe and the DMS are up against in “Extinction Machine” is alien technology and a sinister cabal looking to exploit it. It’s a big leap forward into a new area of strangeness, especially after Maberry spent a couple of novels dropping hints that the supernatural may be part of Joe’s world, but the writer handles it in style. A sense of dread permeates encounters with possible interplanetary elements, and not everything is spelled out for you. It give those scenes a feeling of mystery and power.

Maberry also pulls off the tricky act of answering some questions about what’s going on with alien technology and grounds it in enough details and UFO folklore to make these “facts” feel real. So some questions are answered, but sometimes answering them raises bigger questions.

It’s also of course fun to see the alien elements bounce of Maberry’s great cast of characters. As always most of the chapters of the book are narrated by Joe Ledger himself, a great blend of the every man and the extraordinary man. Joe’s sarcasm, wisecracks, and affection for his friends and family are all believable and help us identify with him, but Maberry never lets you forget that Joe is not like us; that the price he pays for keeping the world safe is sacrificing parts of himself in order to do the messy and violent work his profession often calls for.

So Joe is a pretty multifaceted character who reacts to things and people in lots of interesting ways. In “Extinction Machine” I especially enjoyed seeing his reactions to a new character, Junie Flynn, an insightful and intelligent conspiracy theorist.

Joe also gets to spend plenty of time interacting many of the great established characters in the series like his enigmatic and bad-ass boss, Mr. 250px-JonathanMaberryChurch; his best friend and the DMS’ resident shrink Rudy Sanchez, his fellow Echo Team members Top, Bunny, and Lydia Ruiz, and his faithful combat trained German Shepherd, Ghost. I especially enjoyed the scenes with Ghost in “Extinction Machine.” I think after reading Robert Crais’ latest novel “Suspect” I’ve come to enjoy well thought and believable animal characters, and in the Ledger series Ghost definitely is such a character. His loyalty to and love for his pack mate Joe shine through in all his scenes, making him just as a fun and exciting character as any of the human ones in the series

“Extinction Machine” also features several other interesting new characters as well. We get to meet some of Echo Team’s latest recruits, and we get to spend time with the main villains of the piece; a brilliant billionaire, his second in command, and their chief assassin who may not be entirely human.

These adversaries are very capable and dangerous too. In fact they accomplish an act that will leave long time fans of the Ledger series shocked and horrified.

Like previous novels in the Ledger series “Extinction Machine” is brimming with action. The pacing is breakneck and as you race towards the book’s climax the scope and scale of the novel just grow exponentially making things even more exciting.

Plus we get a number of great fight scenes. Long time fans of Maberry’s work know that the writer has a background in martial arts, and it shows. In other thrillers hand to hand combat scenes can be fun, but they’re never as fun as they are in the Ledger books. Joe Ledger’s fights crackle and explode off the page. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again when it comes to fight scenes Maberry is the Jack Kirby of prose. No one does them better.

So “Extinction Machine” is the usual literary cocktail of fun action, great characters, and creepy weirdness that I’ve come to look forward to every spring when a new installment in the Ledger series rolls around. Plus it has the great added element of opening up the world of books even further and doing so in a way that was fun, mysterious, and wondrous.

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Categories: Book Review