REVIEW: "Patient Zero" by Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero cover

Jonathan Maberry must be stopped. No writer should be allowed to be this good, ever. Two weeks ago, Maberry's latest novel, Patient Zero, hit bookstores ... and I haven't had a good night's sleep since. Part 28 Days Later, part 24, this book is the unholy offspring of George A. Romero and Tom Clancy. It's bloody brilliant stuff.

Maberry -- who is a multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author -- has knocked it out of the park with Patient Zero. The concept is killer. So is Maberry's execution.

Meet Joe Ledger, a Baltimore cop who's got badassery in his genes. He's ex-military, can kill you with a single martial arts punch, and is whip-smart. He's the man Alpha males dream of being. Stellar detective.

But Ledger soon finds himself far from his precinct -- and his comfort zone -- when he's recruited by an ultra-secret government organization called the Department of Military Sciences. The DMS has big plans for him ... after all, they need Ledger to kill the very terrorist he offed less than a week ago.

You read that right. Ledger killed the terrorist. The terrorist was d-e-d, dead. He came back.

The DMS taskforce was created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can’t handle. In this case, the problem is zombies. Lots of 'em, many created by a super bio-weapon engineered by a terrorist group. The stakes are high -- the only way stakes should be, in my opinion -- and Ledger is in way over his head.

Maberry spins a tale that's ferociously scary, over the top ... and yet, absolutely rooted in reality. Hero Ledger is an authentic character, and the technology he and the DMS use are pulled from the front lines, not the space age. The supporting ensemble cast -- including Ledger's psychologist friend; a mysterious leader of the DMS; and an unlikely love interest -- are realized as truly human characters, not cannon fodder cutouts.

And the villains. Oh, how they rock. A billionaire with ambitions to jump-start the apocalypse to make a financial killing. A beautiful, genius -- and deadly -- biochemist with a jones to set forth the greatest jihad the planet has known. A terrorist mastermind who's far more clever than he appears.

And behind it all, pulling the strings like a master, is Maberry. His prose is well-grounded, visceral and frightening. His plotting is superb. Patient Zero is a must-read, not just for zombie fans (who will appreciate the biomedical thriller twist Maberry's cooked up), but loyalists of Clancy, James Cameron (a master writer of the ensemble cast) and action thrillers.

It's awesomely scary stuff. Highly recommended.

--J.C.