If you love zombie books and are looking for one that is outside the typical bite and chomp action then Patient Zero is your book! The acerbic protagonist, Joe Ledger, is currently a detective for the police force and is one day from being whisked away for some grueling FBI training when his whole life is turned on its side. There’s no super powers here, Joe is just that good, and the mysterious Mr. Church who is running an even more mysterious governmental task force wants those skills on his side in his war against terror.
There’s barely any downtime from Joe’s recruitment to him being thrust into action so those that are enthused by in-depth play-by-plays of how one can take down any entire room of walkers will greatly enjoy this book. The characters have very few layers and what we do find out is mostly just stated instead of shown too us. I’m a big fan of showing and not telling so Patient Zero gets a ding for that, but most zombie books aren’t known for their multi-layered characters so I can’t complain too much. I knew what I was in for.
What I love about this book is that there isn’t just good vs. bad. Maberry allows some of his characters to operate in the gray which is closer to true life than to the black and white that books in this vein so often seem to portray. Even the baddies have different motives from one another and that leads to a lot of different agendas which means a lot of fun unfolding as you get further into the book.
Another reason I love this book is that love interests are the not the main purpose in the plot-line and the few romantic relationships that show up in the book at all operate in the background for the most part. It was refreshing to read a book that didn’t make the romantic relationships between characters the sole motivation and driving force that pushed the plot forward. If I read one more book that involves a love triangle I’m going to have to buy a new kindle because I will just have had to throw my old one against the wall in frustration. I don’t know what kind of lives these authors are living, but they make it seem like love triangles are prevalent in everyday life and if you haven’t had one then you probably look like a trash can. It’s just not relatable.
Anyways, my absolute favorite part about Patient Zero is that the virus that causes this zombiesque behavior was hand-crafted and released as a biological weapon. That right there chilled me to the bone because that could be happening somewhere in the world right now for all we know. In fact it probably is and that’s what makes this book so frightening. How the zombie virus comes about is exactly how I could see it playing out in the world we live in today, but, hey, maybe I’m just a crazy conspiracy theorist. I hope I am! All the descriptions of the governmental agencies, the protocols, weaponry and fights seemed to be well-researched from what I know about that stuff (and it’s not a lot) and it was clear that a lot of time had been spent to try and get things as close to how this would truly go down as possible. Suspension of disbelief is fine and dandy, but the less you make me have to do the better.
So that was the good and now for the bad. Honestly, at first, I hated the main character Joe. He comes off like the cocky guy you love to hate who makes snap judgments about people and thinks he’s god’s gift to man with all his witty comebacks. It almost feels like the author has written the man’s man he wishes he was. As the book continues forward though Joe because tolerable bit by bit. You see his compassion for his friend and then for the unit he is a part of, but the Joe that I learn about at the beginning of the novel just doesn’t seem like the natural leader that we see in the later chapters. In the beginning he’s portrayed as a loner who likes to fend for himself and has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder from a less than happy past. Nothing in any of what was shown gives the reader the slightest inkling that Joe should be allowed to lead a team let alone be good at it.
I guess my main issue must be with the main character because my next gripe involves him too! The need for the writer to make Joe mentally make notes about people instead of showing us what people were like drove me nuts. Again….showing not telling. We, the readers, can comprehend that the ultra-secretive Mr. Church is ultra-secretive from the very first few chapters. There’s absolutely no need to hammer this home by having Joe impressed each and every time Church flexes his hand and gets state of the line gear because he’s a man with a lot of connections or gets this or that because he’s a man with high connections.
If you can get past the fact that the main character seems like the author’s wet dream and that sometimes there’s some wasted pages on descriptions that have already been hammered home for the umpteenth time then I would say that Patient Zero is definitely a tolerable book on its own and a stand out in the zombie novel world. If you’re a stealth nerd like me then I would even suggest it as a great beach read! I’m definitely going to try out the next book. Fingers crossed that the Maberry got a little more comfortable with Joe in his second novel and that there’s more concentration on character development!
Read on my fellow bookworms!