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Book Review- “Code Zero”

Code Zero coverJonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series of novels are primarily high-stakes action thrillers that are spiced up by elements of science fiction and horror.  Those elements are always handled real well, but they’re not always the primary ingredient in the genre cocktail that the writer is blending. So I sometimes how forget how chilling and effective Maberry is when his primary genre is horror. The latest Joe Ledger novel “Code Zero” reminded me of how great a horror writer Maberry is, but still features all the kick-ass action and fascinating and identifiable characters that fans of the series have come to expect.

Part of the reason I consider “Code Zero” more of a horror novel than an action thriller is because of the nemesis opposing Joe Ledger and the men and women of the Department of Military Scientists in this book, a genius high tech terrorist named Mother Night who has a connection to the DMS and whose motivation was best described by Michael Caine in “The Dark Knight” when he said, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” So essentially Joe and the DMS are up against their version of the Joker and the gleeful carnage and mayhem she causes is pretty chilling.

Another reason “Code Zero” is pretty horrific is because Mother Night is not alone. She’s in command of an army of followers most of them mentally ill and societal outcasts and early on she dispatches them to commit terrorist attacks.  We get several chapters of these attacks and they’re highly effective and quite frightening. You feel the violence and terror Mother Night’s followers are causing. Surprisingly I also felt a little bit of sympathy for some of Mother Night’s followers as well because many of them were alone and struggling with the difficulties of life when they were found by Mother Night. It felt like Maberry was effectively and rightfully pointing out that when we reject and ostracize people instead of trying to help them there’s a real danger that they could be exploited by someone with sinister motives.

Then the final reason “Code Zero” feels like a horror novel to me is the tools Mother Night and her followers use to spread terror; the bio-weapons250px-JonathanMaberry that Ledger and the DMS confiscated in the previous installments of the series, which means the zombie virus, the genetically engineered Berserker super soldiers, and the weaponized plagues of the Ten Kings are all back. Under Mother Night’s command these weapons are used to create some chilling, gruesome and yes twistedly fun scenarios. The mayhem of the book’s final battle felt on par with the chaos and carnage caused in some of the final chapters of “Bad Moon Rising,” the concluding volume in Maberry’s epic horror trilogy about the town of Pine Deep.

So Mother Night is probably the toughest foe the DMS has faced yet, which means we get some great character moments in “Code Zero.” Joe Ledger remains as fascinating and fun as ever but here we get to see him struggling with the carnage caused by Mother Night, what fighting back against her is doing to his already scarred psyche, and trying to hold on to the one bright spot of happiness in his personal life.

We also get great moments with the members of Echo Team, which gets three intriguing new team members, and Mister Church. Plus the DMS support staff get some time to shine in “Code Zero” as well. Bug, their lead computer expert, in particular is given some fun and cool moments.

The moments where Echo Team are in action crackle as usual, but as I mentioned there’s a lot of horrific action in “Code Zero” as well especially in the scenes where Echo Team have to deal with outbreaks of the Seif Al Din virus that transforms innocent people into flesh hungry zombies.

So for me “Code Zero” was a different, but still incredibly fun Joe Ledger novel. It was a tale of psychological and techno horror, but it was also a high stakes tale of desperate heroes. Imagine the conflict, stakes, and tone of the film “The Dark Knight” played out on a national level and featuring valiant and identifiable Spec Op Warfare heroes that are battling to stop a zombie Armageddon from happening. Yes “Code Zero” is as fun as it sounds.


Categories: Book Review
  1. May 16, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Great review, sounds like this might be the link between the Joe Ledger series and the Rot and Ruin books. Added to my TBR list.

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