I’m working on my Master of Fine Arts in Writing Popular Fiction. I enjoy the program for many reasons, but mostly because it requires a lot of reading.
And while each student in the program has a particular writing emphasis — mine is the middle-grade genre — we’re required to read from a variety of work. This academic term, everyone in the program was required to read Jonathan Maberry’s “Patient Zero,” a thriller-horror hybrid.
As in most instances when a group of writers is gathered to discuss a book, my fellow MFA students and I tore “Patient Zero” to shreds. Every awkward sentence, plot hole and undeveloped character was ripped apart. And while I joined in on the book brutality, in the end, I admitted I liked the book.
“Patient Zero” features Baltimore Police Detective Joe Ledger. Ledger is recruited to lead a rapid-response team for the Department of Military Sciences, a secret government task force. Ledger is recruited mostly for his fighting skills. His track record of dropping hostiles under pressure was desirable for his first mission: stopping terrorists from releasing a biological weapon that turns ordinary people into zombies.
Ledger is faced with incredible obstacles throughout the book. His ability to overcome the obstacles was so unbelievable to many of the MFA students — at one point, Ledger knocks down a row of zombies with a single blow — that some of the students couldn’t enjoy the book. I, on the other hand, liked that Ledger was such a strong hero.
But even Ledger couldn’t save the world on his own. While he works hard to train an elite group of fighters for their unusual mission, a group of terrorists in a desert laboratory creates stronger versions of the weapon. These bad-guy characters are creepy and crazy. The mad scientist goes so far as to inject herself with the strongest version of the bioweapon. This version results in a zombie-like creature that can think and speak.
“Patient Zero” is a wild ride that should attract thriller readers who appreciate a little horror and science fiction in their books. Yes, there are parts of the story that require the reader to suspend disbelief, but to me, that’s fun.
This is a book I enjoyed, and if you do too, you’re in luck. Joe Ledger and his team are featured in one other completed novel and a third that’s due on shelves soon.
Miller welcomes book suggestions. Read her
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