Monday, July 19, 2010

Review: The Dragon Factory, by Jonathan Maberry

Jonathan Maberry's Joe Ledger series is quickly becoming one of my top recommendations to friends looking for something new to read. Being the nerd that I am, the second installment, The Dragon Factory, crams in just about everything I could hope for in a novel.

The chapters dealing with our main character, Ledger, are told from the first-person perspective in a voice that's tough as nails and full of pulpy goodness. The bad guys, Otto Wirths, Cyrus, and the Jakoby twins, are all varying degrees of street rat crazy. The toys Joe, Echo Team and the Department of Military Science(DMS) get to use are fun and the vast majority of things being shot (and there are lots of them) are genetically crafted monsters...Cool, right?

While the first Ledger novel, Patient Zero, focused most of its attention on Ledger and his team of soldiers, The Dragon Factory is a multi-layered tale involving a large, but manageable, cast of characters, locations and events. The first third of the novel can get a little overwhelming with the amount of information you have to keep straight, but once the stage is set for the real action, secondary players fade into the background while the main cast steps up to really shine.

Once the book gets rolling, there's little slowdown. The story revolves around Cyrus Jakoby's plot to purify the human race and the DMS' attempt to stop said plans at any cost. There's a lot of twists and turns, and even a few surprises saved for the final pages, but if it feels like I'm being vague, it's because a large part of the joy of reading the book was finding out which crazy direction we were headed next.

The Dragon Factory is a landscape of science, bullet casings and just about every type of monster that can be imagined. Each encounter will keep you on your toes, and there's a hell of a lot going on between the bigger set pieces to keep you entertained. With only 70-odd hours to save humanity, there's little breathing room in these 400-plus pages of sci-fi action goodness.

I find I tend to gravitate toward a single favorite character in most of the books I read and Cyrus Jakoby was definitely my top pick for this outing. His diabolical offspring have lots of wonderful interactions, but Cyrus is the type of super-villain everybody loves but nobody seems to want to write about anymore. He has a thick German accent and literally lives in a secret desert base. He eats endangered species for breakfast, has been known to bathe in a pool of mercury, will kill a minion for sport and even insists everyone calls him “Alpha.” I like a subtle bad guy as much as the next man, but it was an unexpected breath of fresh air to follow this larger-than-life devil as he tries to bring the entire world to its knees.

If I had one complaint with The Dragon Factory, and I'm really digging here, it would be that a few of the action sequences tended to be overly long. While the majority of the gunfights and fisticuffs trotted along at a snappy, and often brutal, pace, some of the move-by-move throwdowns became tedious. I appreciate the insight into the specifics, but sometimes “then I cut his throat because I was having a bad %$^ing day” packs a bigger punch for this reader.

If you haven't guessed it yet, the primary theme for The Dragon Factory is monsters. Whether it's a walking, breathing nightmare, a character that has been bred for evil or a man who is, quite possibly, the most sinister being under the sun, Maberry never tries to define what a monster actually is. That's something left to the reader to contemplate and, with varying opinions coming from many of the characters, the book provides plenty to think about mixed in with all the bloodshed and explosions.

Once again backed by real world science, perhaps the most terrifying thing about The Dragon Factory is the thought that some of this stuff (or, God help us, all of it) is or may some day become possible. If we ever have to worry about such things, let's just hope there is someone like Joe Ledger and his Echo Team out there fighting the good fight.

As for the book and its world of unsettling possibilities, it's one hell of a fun ride.

1 comment:

jonathanmaberry said...

So glad that you enjoyed Joe Ledger's second adventure. I recently wrapped the third in the series, THE KING OF PLAGUES, and will so embark on the fourth, THE OTHERS.

There are also two free Joe Ledger short stories available online: “COUNTDOWN” is a prequel to PATIENT ZERO (http://us.macmillan.com/CMS400/uploadedFiles/COUNTDOWN_free.pdf) and “DEEP, DARK”, which takes place just before the second book, THE DRAGON FACTORY. Here’s the link: http://jonathanmaberry.com/download-the-free-joe-ledger-story-deep-dark

Excellent review.

-Jonathan Maberry
www.jonathanmaberry.com