‘Patient Zero’ by Jonathan Maberry
‘Warning, mild spoilers’
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading my first Jonathan Maberry book, ‘Patient Zero’. Even though I am a fan of the zombie genre, it has been overused in the past few years and has become increasingly difficult to pull off a story that has a fresh perspective. Jonathan Maberry was able to do just that.
I appreciated the way he handled the subject. Using the word ‘Walkers’ instead of ‘Zombies’ a large percentage of the time gave it a different feel as well. One would be inclined to think that the author used the word to piggyback on the success of the now famous TV show, ‘The Walking Dead’ however, Patient Zero was published over a year before the show aired its pilot episode.
The main focus of this story was its lead character, Joe Ledger. Joe was a person that was easy to like right away. His sarcastic attitude and disdain for authority was backed up by his ability to take care of himself. At first we’re given glimpses of what Joe’s capable of as he describes the mistakes people make around him, but later on we find out just how capable he really is.
The manner in which the story is told is very detailed and a little dry at first, but those details paint the picture very clearly as the story progresses.
The story itself is a bit of an upgrade as well. We find that there is a terrorist organization that is attempting to do horrible things, however this one is very well thought out, with layers of subtlety. In fact, most of the way through the book we find the terrorists to be many steps ahead of Joe and his team.
The supporting cast is well fleshed out with many believable and intriguing characters. The most intriguing is the enigmatic leader of the ficticious government agency that recruits Joe, the DMS. The character, ‘Church’ could easily fall into the category of tight lipped agent leading his own department. However Mr. Maberry gave him such a depth of character that I found myself wanting to know more about him.
What followed was a whirlwind hunt to try and stop the unstoppable. This added tension to the story when they found out that there was no cure and infection would spread like an unchecked wildfire.
The tension drove this story. Tension of the DMS and Joe finding that they are hopelessly behind in trying to stop this pandemic, tension between characters, and the tension of Joe himself not knowing if he can handle the stress mentally without snapping.
This tension was expertly broken up at just the right places to keep it from being too much. Be it a clever one-liner or Joe’s sarcasm showing through, it gave a break when a break was needed to let the reader catch their breath.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of zombie stories, The Walking Dead, detective, or military cloak and dagger stories. All those elements are well represented with a sprinkle of romance thrown in as well.
I myself will be reading the next Joe Ledger book soon, with high hopes that I will be pleasantly entertained yet again.