Title: Patient Zero
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2009
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Source: Purchased myself
When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week there's either something wrong with your world or something wrong with your skills...and there's nothing wrong with Joe Ledger's skills. And that's both a good, and a bad thing. It's good because he's a Baltimore detective that has just been secretly recruited by the government to lead a new task force created to deal with the problems that Homeland Security can't handle. This rapid response group is called the Department of Military Sciences, or the DMS for short. It's bad because his first mission is to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bio-weapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies. The fate of the world hangs in the balance...
"When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, then there's either something wrong with your skills or something wrong with your world."
In a Sentence
This is my first Jonathan Maberry book, but it won't be my last.
Patient Zero and I have a long, complicated history. (Just ask Christy from Christy's Love of Books). I originally started reading the book over the summer, but because of a slew of reasons (review books, social and familial obligations, graduate school orientation, teaching orientation, heck, even my mood), the poor thing got set aside over and over again. Let me make it clear from the star that this had nothing to do with the book itself. As you'll see shortly, once I actually sat down and committed to reading it, I really enjoyed it! But for God knows why, it took me the LONGEST time to get around to that point. Finally, Christy and I made a bet. If I finished the book before the end of the year, she would buy me a book. If I didn't, I would buy her one. I'm happy to say that I finally cracked down and managed to finish Patient Zero before the end of 2012 (Barely. I read the last page on Christmas night).
Anyways, onto the book itself. The first thing I noticed about Patient Zero (other than the fact that it was about zombies!) was that it started off with a great quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer." Those who know me well can tell you I'm a sucker for a good quote, and it's one of the fastest ways to pull me into a book, so for me, leading with this one was a good choice. It was also a quote that set up the tone for the story and gave the reader a little peek at what was to come.
I also appreciated that, along with the zombies (which I love) Patient Zero also had a lot of appeal for fans of action and adventure or political intrigue. There were a decent amount of political and historical references throughout the book, but not enough to make the text seem obscure. Instead, it was more like a spattering of knowledge about American and Middle Eastern politics that contributed to the overall storyline.
Joe Ledger was a great protagonist to follow. To put it frankly, he's quite the badass, but he has a lot of vulnerability to him hidden just beneath the surface. The development of Joe and the other characters in Patient Zero ensured that the book wasn't just a macho, kicking-ass-and-taking-names-while-blowing-up-some-zombies book. It wasn't just a bunch of cheap thrills and B-grade horror cliches. There was genuine fear, regret, and grief expressed over the terrible events that were unfolding and the consequences that were incurred as a result. And as much as I love the zombie genre as a whole, I think that failing to realistically represent the human side of the situation is one of its biggest failings. It's also one of the reasons why I love shows like The Walking Dead (sweet baby Jesus I'm ready for some new episodes) and books like this one and Feed by Mira Grant.
However, in spite of all its seriousness, Maberry did a good job of providing comic relief in all the right places. One of my favorite instances of this is a quote that I've included below:
"I'm not sure I could trust a man who would bypass an Oreo in favor of vanilla wafers. It's a fundamental character flaw, possibly a sign of true evil" (20, NookBook).
Overall, I'm glad I had the chance to read Patient Zero, even if it took me so long to do so. I will definitely be continuing the series with The Dragon Factory, which I already have a copy of, thanks to Christy! If you're interested in this kind of book at all, I'd highly recommend giving it a shot!