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Friday, February 26, 2010

“The Dragon Factory” by Jonathan Maberry (Reviewed by Robert Thompson)

Official Jonathan Maberry Website
Order “The Dragon FactoryHERE (US) + HERE (UK)
Read An Excerpt HERE
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Read Fantasy Book Critic’s Review of “Patient Zero

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jonathan Maberry is a professional writer and writing teacher and since 1979 has sold more than 1100 articles, seventeen nonfiction books, and six novels, as well as short stories, poetry, song lyrics, video scripts, and two plays. The multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author’s bibliography includes “Ghost Road Blues”, “Bad Moon Rising”, “Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead” and “Patient Zero”. In 2004, Jonathan was inducted into the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame largely because of his extensive writings in that field and is also a martial arts master holding an 8th degree black belt in Jujutsu, and 5th degree black belts in Kenjutsu (Japanese swordsmanship) and Hapkido.

PLOT SUMMARY: Having protected the world from a zombie plague in “Patient Zero”, ex-Baltimore cop turned Special Ops soldier Joe Ledger and the DMS (Department of Military Sciences) are thrown into an even more frightening crisis.

This time, Joe Ledger and the DMS square off against two separate groups of corrupt scientists. The beautiful but twisted Jakoby Twins are creating transgenic monsters and genetically-enhanced soldiers for sale to the highest bidder, while their father Cyrus—who takes evil to an entirely new level—is using cutting-edge science to complete the Nazi Master Race Program. To stop these madmen, Joe will have to elude the NSA who are gunning for him and the DMS, fight his way past mercenary Spetsnaz teams, and stop the Extinction Clock before it runs out.

But when the bloodbath claims one of his own, Joe Ledger declares total war on those people who would burn down the world in order to reshape it in their own dark image...

CLASSIFICATION: Like “Patient Zero”, “The Dragon Factory” is an exciting, action-packed techno-thriller in the vein of James Rollins’ Sigma Force novels and 24. Instead of the Resident Evil/28 Days Later-like zombie/horror elements though, the book brought to mind 80s-era G.I. Joe and James Bond due to the villains and their outlandish ideas.

FORMAT/INFO:The Dragon Factory” is 496 pages long divided over four titled Parts, 133 numbered chapters, and an Epilogue. Narration alternates between the first-person POV of the protagonist Joe Ledger and numerous third-person POVs including heroes (Major Grace Courtland, Mr. Church, First Sgt. Bradley Sims, Eighty-two), villains (Cyrus Jakoby, Otto Wirths, the twins Hecate & Paris Jakoby, Conrad Veder) and minor charactors. “The Dragon Factory” is the second Joe Ledger novel after “Patient Zero”, but is mostly self-contained, although the ending does leaves room for the next sequel, “The King of Plagues”.

March 2, 2010 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of “The Dragon Factory” via St. Martin’s Griffin. The UK edition (see below) will be published on April 15, 2010 via Gollancz.

ANALYSIS: Jonathan Maberry’sPatient Zero” was quite possibly the most entertaining novel I read in all of 2009. As a result, the sequel couldn’t come fast enough for me. Unfortunately, “Patient Zero” must have set the bar too high, because even though “The Dragon Factory” was another entertaining reading experience, the book never lived up to the first Joe Ledger novel...

Side-by-side, there’s not a lot of differences between “The Dragon Factory” and “Patient Zero”. Both books star Joe Ledger, the DMS and a supporting cast that includes Mr. Church, Grace Courtland, Rudy Sanchez, Dr. Hu, Echo Team, etc. Both feature diabolical villains with their diabolical plots to take over or reshape the world. And both are fast-paced action-thrillers propelled by ultra-short chapters and multiple narratives. Basically, “The Dragon Factory” is a lot like “Patient Zero” except bigger. Longer page count, eviler villains, a crazier plot, higher stakes, and so on. In this case though, bigger doesn’t mean better.

For one, the story took well over 200 pages before getting to the good stuff thanks to an uninteresting NSA/Vice President subplot and an inordinate amount of time spent on establishing how evil Cyrus Jakoby, Otto Wirths, the Extinction Clock, and the twins were—information that could have been expressed in less than half the time. On top of that, the plot was predictable with very few surprises, not to mention the use of such tired ideas like mad scientists, secret labs, Russians, Nazis, a master race program, and references to the Cold War and Josef Mengele.

Two, the villains were just over-the-top, so much so that they felt cartoonish rather than scary, and I was much more impressed with El Mujahid, Amirah and Sebastian Gault from “Patient Zero” rather than anyone from “The Dragon Factory”. This actually ties in with another problem I had with the book: a lack of plausibility. While “Patient Zero” featured zombies in it, the zombies were based on actual science and was a scenario that I could somewhat imagine happening in the real world. The stuff depicted in “The Dragon Factory” is based on actual science as well, but it was just too over-the-top. Plus, there was so much of it that between weaponized genetic diseases, cloning, Cyrus’ actual identity, the New Men, berserkers, tiger-hounds, Stingers, and the Chamber of Myth, it just became impossible for me to suspend my disbelief.

Finally, Jonathan Maberry uses too many POVs in the book. Normally I enjoy the multiple narrative format, especially when it includes villians as well as the good guys and minor characters, but in this case I felt it was a detriment to the novel, in particular to Joe Ledger who seemed lost in his own book. In other words, Joe’s narrative lacked much of the rough charm and biting humor that made him so cool and interesting in “Patient Zero”...

On the flipside, the action portrayed in “The Dragon Factory” is still fast, furious and pulse-pounding; the pacing remains electric; the writing is once again skillfully executed; and the book, like “Patient Zero”, is just a lot of fun to read. Plus, Jonathan Maberry shows that he’s not afraid to kill off his characters, and the ending is a powerful one, promising some interesting directions to explore in the next sequel.

CONCLUSION: All in all, “The Dragon Factory” was a disappointment compared to “Patient Zero”, but I still enjoyed reading the book and look forward to “The King of Plagues”. I just hope the sequel is more like “Patient Zero” instead of “The Dragon Factory”...

3 comments:

Tristan said...

I find it amusing that you find immortal super zombies more plausible that gene splicing and gene doping to create super humans and hybrid creatures, which exists in a far less dramatic form right now. Also cloning people is near possible now, if not already so. Maybe its presentation which I can't speak to as I haven't read the book, but seriously, he used an insomnia virus if I remember correctly and completed distorted it in Patient Zero, while here he just dials real science up to 11. But whatever.

Robert said...

Tristan:

Well like I mentioned in my review, I thought there was just too much stuff going on in "The Dragon Factory" compared to "Patient Zero" to suspend my disbelief. Also, there was a lot of stuff I didn't mention in my review for fear of spoilers, so if you read "The Dragon Factory" you'll see for yourself what I was talking about...

Anonymous said...

Tristan & Robert. I agree with you Tristan. Though the first book "Patient zero" did seem less plausible than did a super zombie, especially in the time frame given "in one year," as said by Amirah. I just loved both books however.. Also i would like noted that one of the main characters is killed off in the first book as well.. I found that this books more riveting parts was t-words the end also i was looking forward to see how the release of the virus was going to be done. Was, needlessly to say, disappointing. Though the method was a good one i thought that the characters though out the book "Patient zero" could not figure out how intelligent they were from chapter to chapter... I though did love both books, though I also felt there was a lot to have been said in both that I would love to have seen, read.

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