When I was searching for a book to bring with me on vacation, Jonathan Maberry's Patient Zero appeared to be exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. I'd been intrigued by this novel ever since Simon Spanton sent me an ARC last winter, but never found the time to give it a go.
I was expecting to read a big chunk of this book waiting at various airports and during my flights. But coming down with that virus in San Francisco meant that I could do little more than take it easy and read for a couple of nights. And boy was Patient Zero an entertaining read!
Joe Ledger is a hard-ass Baltimore detective. During a warehouse raid, he kills terrorist Javad Mustapha with two point-blank shots. To his consternation, Ledger is later picked up by government agents while enjoying a beautiful day at the beach, and he soon discovers that Mustapha apparently rose from the dead. Events escalate, and Ledger is recruited by the ultrasecret Department of Military Science to head a counterterrorism task force to help stop a group of Muslim fundamentalists from releasing a bioweapon capable of turning people into zombies on US soil. The plague is so virulent that it could lay waste to the entire country in a matter of days.
At first, I was afraid that Maberry would play the card of the usual Muslim crackpots/fuckwits. Yet the author obviously understands that terrorism is not always a black or white issue, and there are many shades of gray throughout the novel. Involving Western and American interests in the terrorists' scheme added a few layers to an already convoluted plot. I was also impressed with the zombies being the product of a prion disease rather than anything paranormal. In the end, Patient Zero is more a techno-thriller than a supernatural book.
Joe Ledger is a fun and interesting character. A little too bad-ass for my taste, but flawed enough to feel like a genuine fellow. Still, it's the supporting cast which really makes this a multilayered tale. Secondary characters such as Mr. Church, Major Grace Courtland, Amirah, Sebastian Gault and Toys all leave their marks in various ways.
Patient Zero is a page-turner, and Maberry maintains the pace from start to finish. This is a novel that grabs hold of you from the beginning and won't let go. Sharp dialogue and sardonic humor abound, making this novel accessible to anyone.
My only complaint would have to be that at times the action scenes get in the way of the storytelling. Fortunately, the battle scenes are not prolonged affairs à la Salavatore, so they don't take anything away from the plotlines.
Patient Zero is as thought-provoking as it is balls-to-the-wall. Which is quite a combo, no question! You'll find violence and excitement throughout, tempered by enough politics and scientific stuff to provide "meat" for this high-octane rollercoaster ride.
There's never a dull moment, which makes Jonathan Maberry's Patient Zero the perfect book to bring with you on vacation this summer, or to keep you up past your habitual bedtime at home.
I commend this one to your attention. . .
The final verdict: 7.75/10