Jonathan Maberry: Patient Zero

Brought to you by OBS Staff Member Rose

It’s just another day in Baltimore in Detective Joe Ledger’s line of work when he is involved in a raid, things go awry and Joe kills one of the perps involved. Days later, he is summoned and escorted off the beach by a few Secret Service looking types to a remote location that’s been turned into a makeshift federal facility. Joe is placed in a room and inside to his surprise is the same man he killed a few days earlier at the raid. This is Patient Zero.

Weighing heavily on his options after this reality, he gets recruited and joins a secret governmental division called DMS (Department of Military Sciences). There is one agenda on the table, stop a group of Islamic fundamentalists from releasing a deadly, or rather undeadly, bio-weapon loose into society by which ordinary folk turn into walking zombies.

This was my first Jonathan Mayberry novel. I was hot off a marathon of reading the entire Southern Vampire series, in 5 days flat, and I wanted to continue my love affair with the supernatural genre. However, I jumped that distinct supernatural entity ship and boarded one filled with zombies by grabbing a copy of Patient Zero at the bookstore and went along for the ride.

Jonathan Maberry is fairly new to penning horrors. His early works dealt mostly with martial arts and self-defense. After switching genre gears, in 2007 he won a Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 2007 for Ghost Road Blues.

With Patient Zero, Maberry incorporates terrorism, biological warfare, hard-core action and military combat as the backdrop to the story that is about the living dead.  Joe Ledger an ex-marine, is the main figure at the core of this story, with a handful of other equally interesting cast of characters. Sure some are stereotypical but you don’t get your mind too stuck on that because the story keeps you moving along.

When Joe and his team infiltrate the crab plant, Mayberry’s conveyance of character location and interaction make one feel as if they’re really there. He holds the hand of the reader dragging them around corners and down corridors in anticipation. The details described during the standoff against 200 undead, which are called Walkers, is vivid enough to make you feel like you’re watching a movie, not reading a book.

I really enjoyed the fact that while reading through a tumultuous scene and then the chapter ends, the new chapter following didn’t take you back to another storyline just yet. The new chapter continued on with the action. I was pleasantly surprised with this, for that is not usually the formula with chapter progression. Flipping back and forth between subplots after every chapter is like being interrupted by a cut to a commercial break.  It was nice to have fewer of those.

The only qualm was the stereotypical perpetrating of Muslims as terrorists. I gather it’s due to our current state of affairs in the world, just like during the Cold War the Russians ruled as being the bad guy.

The suspense and drama is mixed very nicely with in depth dialogue of explanations about diseases, the origins and capabilities. So the book is not all fluff. As stated in the Author’s Note:  [i]“Much of the technical information in this novel is based upon actual science. With very few exceptions, the surveillance equipment, computer systems and weapons used by the fictional Department of Military Sciences are real, though several of these items are not yet available on the commercial market.”[/i]

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I am sure you will too. In fact, fans of Patient Zero should be happy to know that it is actually book one in a series. It is scheduled to be followed up by The Dragon Factory in 2010 and by The King of Plagues in 2011.