Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Review: Patient Zero

Jonathan Maberry, March 2009, Orion

When Joe Ledger – police detective, ex-army martial arts expert, and certified smartarse – is called upon to kill a terrorist suspect, he’s just a little shaken by the experience: after all, he’d already killed the same guy only a couple of days previously. And with that act, Joe finds himself drawn into a shadowy world of covert anti-terrorist operations, global jihads, flesh-eating zombies, and a laboratory-born pathogen that, if released, could destroy the world. And the clock is ticking...

The cover blurb for Patient Zero describes the book as a coming together of 24 and 28 Days Later, and that’s a fairly good thumbnail review. The plot is satisfyingly complex, with plenty of behind-the-scenes detail relating to covert operations, zombie ‘biology’, and fundamentalist culture, yet avoids getting too bogged down as the story charges along at an electrifying pace. The various protagonists and antagonists (a line which occasionally becomes blurred) are suitably motivated and interesting, if not always likeable. And Maberry’s zombies are terrifyingly credible, in addition to providing plenty of tension, frights, gore – and occasionally, some emotional soul-searching.

Patient Zero is a terrific action/horror novel that effortlessly and absolutely satisfies the requirements of both genres. It’s also – and I say this without making light of the fact – a truly post 9/11 zombie novel, and all the more terrifying for it.

With a major Australian publicity drive behind this novel, Patient Zero should be available this month from most bookshops across the country. As an aside, it would be nice to think that this will also lead to local suppliers picking up distribution of some of Maberry’s back-catalogue (as has recently happened with the books of David Wellington), such as the Pine Deep trilogy, which deserves a far bigger readership in this country. Fingers crossed!

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