Thursday, February 28, 2019

REVIEW: Patient Zero (audiobook) by Jonathan Maberry, narrated by Ray Porter

Patient Zero is a military thriller with zombies. I listened to it via Overdrive.


Joe Ledger is a badass cop who's about to become a badass FBI agent. He has some issues due to some terrible stuff in his past - if I remember right, something about him, when he was a teen, being forced to watch his girlfriend get gang raped, after which they both entered therapy and she eventually committed suicide. But he's found a way to turn his issues into assets. He's in perfect control of himself, and nothing and no one can take him in a fight.

But then he kills a terrorist, after which he's brought to a shadowy guy named Mr. Church. Mr. Church has him take part in a test that involves restraining a man...who turns out to be the same terrorist Joe thought he killed, only now the terrorist is a biter and stinks like rotting flesh. Joe is asked to join Mr. Church's shadowy government organization, which is trying to stop a terrorist group bent on making the United States ground zero for a zombie pandemic.

The good: As usual, I enjoyed Ray Porter's narration. This book made me wonder just how many accents he has under his belt - he got to use a lot this time around and my only real complaint was that it occasionally took him a while to get a proper handle on how some of the characters sounded (the one I'm most thinking of here is Joe's friend and psychiatrist, Rudy). The battles were usually pretty good - my favorite was probably the part at the crab processing plant. Maberry's science-based explanation for the zombies was intriguing (prions + genius mad scientist), and the new zombies introduced near the end of the book were interesting. And I was mildly amused by Mr. Church's ever-present plates of Oreos and vanilla wafers.

The bad: For a military thriller featuring zombies, this was surprisingly boring. So boring that I came very close to not finishing it in time and was forced to speed the narration up, even though I really like Ray Porter's regular narration speed. It took at least half the book for most of the action to get started.

The characters were either giant cliches or forgettable. Or both. I got tired of hearing how amazing a fighter (oh sorry, "warrior") Joe was. As much as he'd claim to not be perfect, or not be as experienced or knowledgeable as other men Mr. Church could have brought in, all evidence indicated that he was this world's number one combat machine. Grace was his enormously obvious future love interest - the one thing that surprised me was that Maberry didn't include cringe-worthy on-page "confirming we're alive" sex between Grace and Joe, just a quick mention that they'd ended up in bed together (meanwhile, I was thinking about Joe's fridged girlfriend). The book does have cringe-worthy sex between two of the villains, though.

The villains were awful. The bulk of them were stereotypical Islamic terrorists. There was also a sexy female scientist who could apparently turn men's brains to jelly with a look, and an idiot who was bankrolling the terrorists and couldn't see the flaws in his plans to get rich via religious fanatic-created zombies. The one villain who marginally interested me was Toys (no idea if I'm spelling his name right), the idiot's employee and the closest thing he had to a friend.

Also, one thing I wish Maberry had done was mention the First Lady's name sooner. Or the vice president, or president. I don't remember what the First Lady's name was, but I do remember that it confirmed that neither she nor the president were real-life people. I suspect that the entire Liberty Bell ceremony scene would have gone over a bit better with me if I had read it when this book was originally published. The thought of Mr. Church's group answering directly to the current president made me shiver with horror.

I'm glad I finished this, so there isn't even the tiniest of nagging voices in my head, wondering how things turned out. But I have zero plans to read the next book.

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