Saturday, 12 December 2009
Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry
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 Amazon.co.uk. Believe me, if you're a fan of zombie horror, this is well worth seeking out.