REVIEW: The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry

REVIEW SUMMARY: Joe Ledger is back, he’s mad, and ready to take on genetically enhanced humans, animals and anything in between.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: In this follow up to the Bram Stoker nominated Patient Zero, Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences team fight two sets of related genetic mad scientists, one group out for profit and another aiming for race extinction. The crooks try to outwit each other while Joe Ledger and the DMS teams try to track them down. The clock is ticking on “the Extinction Wave”!

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Maberry is one of the best at writing action sequences; Ledger is a believable flawed hero; the scenarios are frighteningly realistic.

CONS: A bit too much genetic science-speak in places; some cliché bad guys and conspiracies (former Nazis are always the genetic mad scientists).

BOTTOM LINE: Global in scope, scary in its realism, this fast paced novel is only slowed by occasional overdoses of science-speak.


In this second Joe Ledger novel, the Department of Military Sciences (DMS) is targeted for shutdown by the NSA, through the manipulation of the Vice President by a Senator and the Jakoby twins. The Jakoby twins, albino genetic criminals, want Mindreader, the DMS’ AI computer spidering tool, and they want the DMS out of the way for an assault on a cache of genetic science documents held at a underground storage facility

The twins learned their genetic tricks of the trade from Cyrus Jakoby, and they believe they have Cyrus (their “father) and Otto Wirths (his assistant) under control. But Cyrus (who knows he is insane) and Otto have been planning genetic experiments of their own. Unknown to the twins (who use genetic manipulation to make unique creatures for profit), Cyrus and Otto have been working on a gene mutation deliverable like a virus to wipe out large segments of the population. They call their plan “the Extinction Wave”.

Into this rivalry wades Joe Ledger. Neither the NSA, Russians nor genetically enhanced soldiers can stop Ledger, as he and the DMS team, led by the mysterious Church, put the pieces together. The history of Cyrus, Otto, the twins, the Nazis and even Church blend together as DMS heads for the facility known as The Dragon Factory in a race against the clock to stop “the Extinction Wave.”

Maberry’s first Joe Ledger novel, Patient Zero, was often listed as a horror novel (and has been nominated for a Bram Stoker award in that genre); but it is more about a battle against bio-terrorism by deep-cover U.S. Government agency and The Dragon Factory continues that perspective. Both novels are heavy in the bio and genetic technical speak (and in some passages this slows the pacing down). But in both novels, Maberry has done his research to put some very scary realism into the bio-terrorism attacks taking place.

The conspiracies and double crosses are mixed in for fun (in a 24-like moment, the V.P. pushes his own agenda while the Prez is out under medical care), and when ever bad guys and genetics are mixed the Nazis are always in the story. Though it seems a bit cliché, Maberry’s obvious research also pulls this part of the plot together.

Ledger remains a “damaged goods” hero, and Maberry even has his own version of id, ego and superego for the man:

I lost a lot of my humanity that day and lost more of it after she killed herself. The process fragmented me into at least three different and occasionally compatible inner selves: the civilized man, the cop and the warrior. The civilized part of me was, despite everything, still struggling to be an idealist. The cop was more cynical, less naive – and luckily for us he’s usually in the driver’s seat. But when things got nasty, the warrior wanted to come out and play.

Joe’s introspection, the action sequences and the near-future headlines realism make each of the Ledger novels fun reads, and have me looking forward to the third novel, The King of Plagues, which appears to be targeted for 2011.