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Patient Zero
      The Dragon Factory
Jonathan Maberry
      Jonathan Maberry
St. Martin's Griffin, 421 pages
      Gollancz / St. Martin's Griffin, 486 / 496 pages

The Dragon Factory
The Dragon Factory
Jonathan Maberry
Jonathan Maberry is the multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Ghost Road Blues, first of a trilogy of thrillers with a supernatural bite. He is a professional writer and writing teacher and since 1979 has sold more than 1100 articles, seventeen nonfiction books, six novels, as well as short stories, poetry, song lyrics, video scripts, and two plays.

Jonathan Maberry Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by John Enzinas

Patient Zero I was the second person in my house to read The Dragon Factory. My wife "borrowed" it from my shelf and liked it so much that she acquired Patient Zero (the first book) and finished it just as quickly. She loved both of them.

Then it was my turn. I decided, sensibly enough, to start with the first book. It was awesome. A tightly written Clancyesque techno-thriller with super secret government organizations, jihads, Machiavellian businessmen, well executed violence, plausible science and zombies! It was extremely gripping and really that's the only complaint I had. There were very few pauses in the action where I could set the book down and get some sleep.

I started The Dragon Factory shortly thereafter. After about a third of the way into the book, I realized something was wrong, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. It wasn't until I was at the end, skimming my way through the climax because I didn't really care but wanted to find out how they tied it up that I figured it out. It started out with the plot feeling slightly contrived to ensure that all factions had the most amount of contact without actually being aware of what was going on. Next there was the increased scientific exposition. In the first book, there was just enough to make the premise plausible but they didn't try tp explain it in any detail so I didn't have to think. In The Dragon Factory everything gets explained and it's wrong. In some cases it's impossible and in others it's just stupid.

The problem was that Jonathan Maberry jumped genres. Instead of the very reality based techno thriller of Patient Zero, he was now writing an over-the-top James Bondesque comic book story complete with super-powered henchmen clones and immortal Nazi super villains. It wasn't bad (although it was not nearly as well edited as the first book) but it broke the genre promise of the first and so I paid closer attention to the science thinking it was well researched instead of made up. I gave the villains's plottings more attention because I thought they were supposed to be well thought out and not just a madman's doomsday scheme for the hero to stop. I was disappointed with the killing of the hero's love seemingly there only to harden his resolve and allow him to finish the fight. Had I been expecting the comic book story, I wouldn't have been nearly so disappointed.

I probably would have forgiven Maberry too, if it weren't for the slapdash epilogue pasted on the end to wrap up the loose ends and set up the next book. Look at it this way... This book deals with world changing technology. The villains in the piece have not just resurrected extinct species from the passenger pigeon to the dodo to a Neanderthal but have created new ones including insect dog hybrids. They have transgenic processes that can make people stronger, faster and smarter. They've discovered immortality. Unlike the first book, everyone finds out. Things can't go back to the way they were and yet the book implies they will. That was not the ending I needed to make up for the genre change.

If you go into this expecting what it is, you'll love it. While not as well written as Patient Zero, it's still fantastic with tight fight scenes and fascinating exploration of the effects of violence on the human psyche. However, if you are looking for a realistic plot and not a comic book one, you might want to give this a pass.

Copyright © 2010 John Enzinas

John Enzinas reads frequently and passionately. In his spare time he plays with swords.

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