Saturday, 12 December 2009

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero is a new thriller novel by an author whom I greatly admire, Jonathan Maberry. I raved about his previous book Zombie CSU a few months back and proclaimed it as the best zombie book I'd ever read. Zombie CSU took a simple premise - if a zombie attack happened now, how would the world react? It dealt with this theme in a serious manner, getting opinions from a wide range of experts. Patient Zero picks up on some of the points raised in Jonathan's earlier work but is entirely a work of fiction.
The hero of the story is a Baltimore detective called Joe Ledger, who is recruited into a covert organisation known as the Department of Military Sciences (DMS). DMS is run by a mysterious chap called Mr. Church, which may well be an alias. His background is unknown but he has unbelievable authority, funding and contacts. In short, he is not a man to cross with. But neither is Joe Ledger. He is ex-army and a martial arts expert. He reacts extremely well in combat situations. His world is turned upside down when he killed a terrorist on a raid he led, only to face the same terrorist shortly afterwards when Mr. Church first tried to recruit him.
Yes, the terrorist came back to life as a zombie with an insatiable hunger for human flesh. The premise of the book is that a group of Middle-Eastern terrorists with the help of some top-ranking scientists have found a way to reanimate the dead. I'm no scientist, so I couldn't possibly comment on whether such a feat is possible but from what I do know about prions, the basis for the zombie infection, I'd have to say it all sounds very plausible.
The terrorists plan to release the zombie plague on American soil. It is fast acting so in no time at all the whole of the United States would be infected. The major effect of such a catastrophe would be to force the US government to spend billions of dollars to research a cure. This would reduce the country's military spending such that the USA could no longer be termed a global superpower. I like the thinking behind the terrorist's plot, especially as they had already developed a cure.
DMS has intell on the whereabouts of a couple of the terrorists' cells and Joe is tasked with leading a small group of hand-picked military personnel to take them out. He succeeds in both missions, although not without a great deal of suffering in the second raid. His findings lead him to believe that the terrorists were planning something a lot more devastating and with the July the Fourth celebrations looming fast he isn't wrong.
I absolutely lapped this book up and I loved it. The back cover describes the novel as a coming together of 24 and 28 Days Later, which is a perfectly apt description of it. Jonathan's writing style reminded me a lot of James Patterson's work and like Patterson he uses a lot of short chapters, often just a page long and rarely longer than four pages. I love this way of writing as it makes it much harder to put the book down. I'll often look at the clock and say to myself that I'll just read one more chapter. But the next chapter is only one page long, so I'll read another... and another... and another. Before I know it another hour has passed!
I hope this is just the first in a series of books. The ending leaves it open for a sequel, so make it happen, Jonathan! The book is fast-paced and exciting and comes with my highest recommendation. It would make for a terrific movie. It is unfair to compare it with Zombie CSU, since that was a non-fictional book and this is pure fiction, but I will say that I enjoyed reading it as much as I did with Zombie CSU, and that is high praise indeed.
 I have read some negative comments about one of the book's characters - Major Grace Courtland, just because she's a high ranking female in the SAS. Again, I'm no expert on the recruitment policy of my nation's elite fighting force, but I had no problems with her inclusion. After all, this is fiction and if I can believe that zombies may exist then I have no problem in accepting a female SAS major!
The book costs £9.99 and is a large format paperback, running to 424 pages. It is printed by Orion Books in the UK. I got my copy a lot cheaper than that from Believe me, if you're a fan of zombie horror, this is well worth seeking out.


  1. So glad you enjoyed Joe Ledger's first adventure, Bryan. And the Grace Courtland/SAS thing isn't of much concern, even to my friends in the British Military. Women will become part of that esteemed organization soon enough; I just had Grace be the first,and it was because of that level of skill that she came to the notice of Mr. Church.

    Joe Ledger will return in THE DRAGON FACTORY (March 2010) squaring off against modern day Nazis who are using cutting-edge genetics to complete the Master Race program. (Reserve your copy now from your favorite bookstore.)

    And in 2011 he’ll face off against THE KING OF PLAGUES, a secret society who are using modern versions of the Ten Plagues of Egypt as terrorist weapons to crash world economies.

    There’s also two free Joe Ledger shot stories available online:

    COUNTDOWN takes is a prequel to PATIENT ZERO (

    DEEP, DARK (just posted yesterday), takes place just before the second book, THE DRAGON FACTORY. Here’s the link:

  2. There you have it folks, straight from the horse's mouth (no offence meant, Jonathan!) - there will be more Joe Ledger books. That makes me a very happy bunny indeed!
    Jonathan, many, many thanks for taking the time out to reply and for letting me know what's coming up. I'm off to download your two free online stories that you mentioned. You've made my day!

  3. Very interesting, I will be checking all this out also. As for the plausibility of Zeds.. of course they exist. Heck, I dodge them on the freeways every morning on the way to work!

  4. Lol, Veloci! Is it just me or are there more and more zombies congregating around shopping malls at this time of year?

  5. Dunno about other but I ffel and maybe look like a zombie when I am dragged around Christmas shopping!!

    Good write up I'll give the book a read when I get a copy, I will download the others now. Thanks for the heads up!

  6. It's not just you mate. Zeds are REAL man! If you just sit quietly and people watch it is quite obvious. That is what I really loved about Sean of the Dead. The opening of that movie makes me laugh my arse off the way people are Zeds before the outbreak. And of course Ed is a hoot.

  7. I am worse in the morning, I am a real grumpy B'tard... Ask the misus and the nipper who steer well clear!

    So I guess we are real, I'll keep my eyes open and baseball bat handy!

  8. Patient Zero is a good book. Read it back probably 6+ months or so ago when it first came out here (well more liek when I first noticed it in the bookstore) in the States. Glad to hear Joe will be back in future books Jon. Will definitely look for them

  9. I just wish it was easier to find at the stores around me. My local book stores are zombie challenged very badly. They have WWZ on a display placard but after that it falls off the cliff. Of course they offer to order it for you. But I can do that with Amazon and not have to go back!

    Great review Bryan and I am looking forward to reading it. Great to see Jonathan responding on the board, too, thats really cool.

  10. Roger, Jonathan is a top notch bloke. He says that he prefers dealing with fans like me who run a blog than with "professional" critics, as we are more honest. I do most of my shopping on-line now. For years and years I never even owned a credit card. Now I just couldn't live without it, lol!