Jonathan Maberry, St. Martin's Press, 2009. Zombie, thriller, suspense novel. 421 pages.
Wow, what a book - full of excitement, zombies, intrigue, fighting, betrayals, twists and turns! And all of this done with a very human element.
Joe Ledger is a tough as they come, highly skilled cop who finds himself having to kill the same terrorist twice in one week. This leads him to join the Department of Military Science, an ultra secret government agency designed to deal with a new breed of biological weapons, weapons which effectively turn people into zombies and threaten the whole of humanity. Joe Ledger and his comrades need to stop the outbreak as well as find out who is doing this - is it a terrorist plot? And, if so, who could be organized and skilled enough to pull this off?
I have to say that I am not one for gory novels, so I was not anxious to read this novel at first; however, I read Jonathan Maberry's Rot & Ruin not long ago (see review here), and felt compelled to read more books by him. For those who like vivid, descriptive zombie attacks and action scenes, you won't be disappointed. This novel is very macho, tough talking, and moves along quickly with lots of intrigue. There is scientific and military conspiracies, post 9/11 terrorist plots, super secret government organizations, romance, and so much tension that the book is hard to put down. Joe Ledger is beyond tough - you can feel the testosterone oozing out of every pore of this guy.
Probably my favourite thing about Patient Zero is that it is more than a zombie book - there is a very human element. Joe Ledger and his friends don't just kill zombies, we see the full impact on them as people who do what they know is right even though they know it will leave a mark on them, contaminating them forever. One of Joe's friends is Rudy, a psychiatrist, and this allows Joe to talk and be vulnerable in the wake of what he has to do. There is a great dichotomy set up here and this really made the book for me.
The story is told in an interesting way, alternating between the first person narrative of Joe and the third person narrative of some of the other characters. This even alternated from the present time to the past at times to fill in the details of how the situation developed. I think this was done effectively, though it did jar me occasionally to go from third person to first person.
It is obvious that the author did a lot of research as all of the science described sounded plausible, as do the descriptions of terrorist cells and how they work, as well as how the American and British governments have reacted to terrorism. I enjoyed suspending reality so that zombies could be real in a present day scenario rather than in a dystopian future.
The next in the series is Dragon Factory, and the third, The King of Plagues, has recently been released. I am anxious to read them to see what is next for Joe Ledger.