* Prices may differ from that shown
I do like a good Zombie story, but the trouble is that there aren't many good ones around as all the possible zombie based story lines have been done, excuse the pun, to death. So, it was with some preconceived opinions that I read Patient Zero by Jonathon Maberry.
Joe Ledger is a detective who has nothing left to lose and is a highly skilled martial arts fighter. The ability to be ruthless in a fight gets him recruited into a top secret organisation, the Department of Military Sciences where he is thrust into the fight against a terrorist with seemingly unlimited financial backing who just so happens to have a formula that can turn people into zombies. It is the aim of this terrorist to unleash the formula in America and make them pay for what he sees to be their sins against Allah. As the plot develops, you will discover that there is also another motive behind that motive - but no spoilers from me!
I think that the author has been smart enough to recognise that the whole zombie outbreak, bite, panic, scream and run thing has been fully explored, so instead he sticks to mainly the crime / suspense / thriller aspects of the story. For example, there are some quite clever twists concerning who is involved in the release (or maybe attempted release - no spoilers!) of the substance that turns people into zombies. Also, he tries reasonably succesfully to explain some quite indepth science about prions - the chosen method of spreading the zombie formula.
I found that the main character, Joe Ledger, to be portrayed just right - he wasn't quite fully the gruff, silent hard-case that the author hints at as there are some quite amusing moments involving him and even a romantic interest that occurs which adds more dimensions to the main character. All this makes for a more compelling read. There is a character though called Mr Church that I found to be too stereotyped - he is the head of the Department of Military Sciences and the way he was put across in the story made me think he was a carbon copy of "the smoking man" from the X Files, but with a taste for cookies instead of cigarettes. Once this comparison occured to me, I found it hard to take him seriously from that point onwards.
I wouldn't say that you have to be a "Zed Head" to enjoy this book as there is enough depth to the plot to make it appealing to those who aren't into the classic zombie story - this is something different to that tired outbreak / zombie vs survivor scenario. So, I would therefore recommend it quite widely - one of the descriptions about the book on its cover is "24 meets 28 Days later - a fast moving, hyper violent techno-thriller with horror overtones" - surely that has some appeal to fans of Ludlum, Clancy, Koontz, King etc?
I disagree with the hyper violent comment though. Although there are some quite detailed fight scenes, I wouldn't say that the actions described are gratuitous or over the top. It should be remembered that Ledger is fighting zombies, and as most of us know a zombie can only be killed by traumatic injury to the brain, so don't expect passages of chinese burns and nipple twists - these playground staples don't kill the walking dead. I think that given the context, (ie - an enemy who can only be killed by mashing their head) the violence is not unwarranted. Also, you might disagree after reading the book yourself, but the fight scenes did make me think of the Jason Bourne fight scenes in the Bourne films - they are of a similar level of detail.
I enjoyed the many twists and turns along the way towards finding out "whodunnit" and was surprised by the big reveal - I certainly didn't see that one coming. The paperback is currently available on Amazon for £5.99 brand new, 38p second hand or for £4.99 if you are a gadgetophile and have one of those "candle" things. Thanks for reading.
Patient Zero is a brave attempt to try and do something different with the Zombie novel. And why not? The market is flooded right now, with many of the stories on offer consisting of the usual pulp post-apocalyptic fare that is tall on action, short on originality but still seems to sell. A few stand-out exceptions in recent times include offerings from horror writer, Brian Keene, which depict Zombies as vessels for a demonic infestation and Robert Swartwood's Dishonoured Dead which attempts to reverse the usual perspective and look at things from a Zombie viewpoint.
In Jonathan Maberry's fast-paced techno-thriller, our hero is Joe Ledger; a Cop involved in an Anti-Terorist swoop on a warehouse, accompanied by Homeland Security. Things all go a bit pear-shaped, some of the terrorists get away in a couple of trucks, only one of which the Task Force manage to track, and Ledger is deemed at least part-way responsible by some of those involved. Called in for a meeting with a secret Goverment Department, he instead finds himself being interviewed for a potential vacancy and quickly learns exactly what the Terrorists were up to in that warehouse when he is made to face one of them he thought he had killed......
It seems the Terrorists have created a new Bio-Weapon that turns men into psychotic animals that are extremely hard to kill and keep going even after their bodily functions have long begun to shut down. They are planning to utilise it in a strike against the West.....the only question is where and when......
This is not a bad thriller that certainly kept me entertained for about two-thirds of the book before it all began to get a bit repetitive and kind of just ran out of steam towards the end. It does get to a point in this book where you begin to wonder if Joe Ledger isn't some kind of super-human himself, the amount of Zombie ass he is able to kick, and the climax of this book just feels a bit too familiar and tired as the First Lady is put into jeopardy and has to be saved.
This novel is okay but I am not sure I would read any more from this author if I had to pay for subsequent volumes and there are several others written in this same universe that carry on from here. It all just felt a bit too gung-ho and though it was okay, it never really progressed beyond that to awesome though I applaud the author's efforts to try something new and original!