Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars
I don't like zombies, but I like this book!
I bought this one a while ago because I was intrigued by the idea of an action/adventure series about a special government agency which handles strange science threats. It's been sitting on my shelf, not because it didn't look interesting. I was just reading and doing other stuff.
Glad I was able to read it for the February group read for the Action/Adventure Aficionados group. A very strong selling point is that this one hits the ground running. I hate being bored, so I appreciate a book that doesn't give me opportunities to get bored, and also engages my intellect. This book did both. I felt that I was drawn into the action early on, and the fact that the characters have to think on their feet adds to the sense of urgency. This book is built quite heavily on that sense of urgency, and it succeeds. This was a book that never slowed down, despite the high tech science elements. I feel that the author wrote a book here that is intelligent, but also action-packed. He took zombies and gave them a 21st century update, which makes it even more scary. To think that someone is crazy enough to make a pathogen that would turn people into zombies, and to unleash it on innocent citizens, for any reason, is absolutely frightening.
Mad scientist stories interest me. And this one has a whopper! I did think the actual identity of the mad scientist was quite interesting, although I found their reasons to be a let-down. Not that there was any good reason to do what that person was doing, but the reason didn't ring true to me. Unless it's just sheer craziness.
Terrorism lives up to its name. The thought of murdering people for a cause is appalling. In this book, there is also another dimension here. Maybe terrorism in its essential form isn't the whole picture. Terrorism is also good business. The thought nauseates me. But there are people in this world who happily make lots of money this way. This aspect of terrorism is examined in Patient Zero. That someone in fact uses it to create a demand and supply effect. The zombies aren't the ones with no souls in this book.
This is one of those books I didn't want to put down. Here I am, reading this book in bed when you'd think zombie books would be off the bedtime reading list. Nope. I had to keep reading.
Joe has action hero chops. Maberry lays the groundwork for why he's the man for the job, and he acquits himself admirably. I liked that Joe is a tough action hero, but he's also flawed and human. He doesn't have all the answers, nor does he have emotional wholeness, and he knows it. That's another reason he's on the frontline. I kind of liked his attitude. What can I say? A grumpy hero can work for me. And yes, the martial arts, barehanded zombie fighting was pretty awesome. I mean, that takes some guts to tackle a zombie without having a respectable fifteen feet shooting distance between them. How about breaking zombie necks with one's bare hands and other parts of the body? I'll leave that to folks like Ledger. He is a man of action and an intelligent man. A good mix.
I touched on the bad guys. It's hard to write a good villain. You can easily make them too campy or so mundane you're bored to tears. Both is death, no pun intended. How about a little realness thrown in with the evilness quotient? That's a good mix. I'm not sure how effective the villains were on an essential level. They did the job, but something was off. I couldn't identify with the villains. Nope. Not at all. I couldn't put myself in their shoes. To me, they were foul beyond believe. No amount of integrity despite some of them being true believers. Actions speak louder than words. I often asked myself which was worse, the true believers or the ones motivated by almighty dollar? I don't have an answer for that one.
Rudy is like Joe's heart and soul. His conscience. I honestly think having Rudy has kept Joe sane. I liked that he is the voice of reason and the voice of ethics, not that Joe isn't ethical. But he can't always weigh the tough questions in the thick of battle. It's good to know he has Rudy to bounce those off of. Good friends are scarce, so I'm glad they have each other.
As far as the team and the people who work at DMS, I think there are characters that stand out. Church is definitely one of them. He's the mystery man with long fingers, and iron hands that can crush his enemies or protect those who need it. He's a good guy to work for, but not a man to cross. I liked the idea of DMS. How they recruit the best, because the best is needed for a situation like they face in this book. Major Grace Courtland stands out as a female character who is tough as nails, but also three-dimensional. You don't get to see too many military heroines, and she's a very good one. The team that Joe picks don't get as much page time, but I hope to see more of them. They earned my respect in the many confrontations they face, shortly after or right when they find out zombies are real. I'd still be in the pinching myself phase. And then there is Doctor Hu. That was utterly priceless!
What fell short
I felt that the ending was less well-executed than most of the book. The story was so well-plotted until the end, that I just had this 'huh' moment with how it ended. I mean the final confrontation was pretty good, but some of the hows behind it, not so much. I still don't understand what happened with the one character who turned out to be a red herring. And the master plan seemed a bit campy on the part of the true believers. Other than that, I have no complaints. But this knocked my rating down in the end.
I have found a new series to follow. Maberry delivers on action and cutting edge science. I love the idea of the DMS, and a top notch action hero like Joe Ledger combined with it, will keep me coming back. While not all elements were 100%, this was a solid read that I enjoyed enormously. I have to give this one a respectable 4.25 star rating. I'll be back for more!
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