The Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry
|Book Name:||The Dragon Factory|
|Publisher(s):||St. Martin's Griffin|
|Formatt:||Hardcover / Paperback / Audio Book / eBook|
|Genre(s):||Horror / Science Fiction / Zombies|
|Release Date:||March 2, 2010|
With the conclusion of Patient Zero, I found myself wondering if I would like its sequel, The Dragon Factory, even a fraction as much as I had liked the first book. Sequels tend to harbor a very dark reputation for being worse than the first, though there are always the exceptions. How many lines do you remember from Alien? Now how many do you remember from Aliens? I rest my case. So, I suppose the ultimate question could be: Which is The Dragon Factory? Is it Terminator 2: Judgement Day or Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen? Fortunately for us…this novel falls into the Good Sequel category. In fact, in many ways it surpasses the first.
Joe Ledger, Grace Courtland, Rudy, Doctor Hu, Mr. Church, Tops and Bunny all return for the sequel to Patient Zero, which was easily one of the best zombie novels I have read in recent memory. The others belonging to the Newsflesh Trilogy, but that is neither here nor there and under the Law of Dibs I cannot review any of them here. Oh well, I call DIBS on Joe Ledger!
But anyhoo, Joe and the rest of the crew at the DMS find themselves suddenly being attacked by the NSA, who are working under the orders of the Vice President (the current President is at this point have surgery, so he cannot tend to the administration of the nation). It seems that the Vice President and his friends don’t appreciate the DMS and their Mindreader program, although one of his staunchest supporters actually wants to claim the program for himself. Meanwhile, deep in an underground lair (I’m of the opinion at this point that villains in the Joe Ledger novels are required by law to have bases that are at least 90% below ground) that belongs to one Cyrus Jackoby and his assistant Otto Wirths, who are supposedly prisoners of Cyrus’s twin megalomaniacs Hecate and Paris.
Yeah, you remember those crazy twins from Resident Evil: Code Veronica? The ones who ran their own death camp and the girl was easily the more crazy and proactive of the pair just by creating her own version of the series infamous viruses? Yeah, now imagine if they decided zombie-raising viruses were so yesterday and that real profit was in making bottled water and engineering ape-men, elves, kobolds, unicorns and dragons. That’s pretty much how these twins are. And in turn makes me deathly afraid of if I was to be the father of twins. Like with the first novel, the main villains are constantly in conflict with each other, contesting to see which one is the more serious threat and therefore worthy of Joe Ledger’s bullets. It seems that this is a common theme in the novels, and one of the main reasons that the villains are even noticed in the first place.
But this story isn’t only about the villains! After all, these aren’t called the “Joe Ledger Novels” if it wasn’t for our protagonist. And here, even more so than in Patient Zero, we get a sense of the humanity behind Joe’s action hero-esque persona. His relationship and history with his first love and their terrible ordeal is described in the sort of heart-breaking way that makes you want to react just as Joe did. At the same time, his relationship with Grace becomes ten times more complicated as they have started sleeping with each other, and neither would dare to realize that their attraction and need for each other is purely beyond the physical bonds of the bedroom. There’s a deep underlying current that we realize is the lifeblood of their bond and is probably the one thing holding Joe together. Sure, this is probably one of the more overused concepts when it comes to relationships, but who hasn’t felt that special connection to a person when all the rest of the world makes them feel awful and inhuman themselves? What makes it worse is that they are warriors, and while warriors bond with one another on a level that most people could not begin to describe, their bond has the potential to break either of them.
I’m normally wary of relationships and love plots in novels, though I’m aware that they exist. Most of them just feel like the writer realized they have a male and female character, so they had best get them together. Here, the relationship feels organic and I found myself cheering for it. I was happy for Joe.
I wouldn’t say that the stakes have been raised in this novel – after all, terrorists planning to infect the entire world with a zombie virus? Sounds serious to me – but the threat has been made much more prevalent. Cyrus and his companion are engaged in a cold, malicious plot that would wipe out entire continents with brutal efficiency set to a timeline: a plan that had already murdered millions and would end with the direct deaths of five billion people and the massacre of millions more in the ensuing years. It’s safe to say that as far as villains go, you cannot go much further than Cyrus Jackoby. If that is his real name.
As for the rest of the crew, there really isn’t too much to say. Tops and Bunny are really the only members of Echo Team who we see – which is fine by me, because these two work better just playing off each other – and Church is still the same old mysterious Nilla-eating fiend we know and love. Rudy again serves the part of Joe’s conscience and plays his part very well. Doctor Hu is someone who you just want to punch in the face for calling genocide and gene manipulation cool, until you realize that you found the plot to be cool yourself. He plays a bit like a satirical version of the core target audience to remind us that while we know it’s only a story, to these characters it is a very real setting with very real problems. After all, they are the ones populating it.
I burned through the book in a little under two days, mostly because I could not put the thing down. It was just that good of a read, and the ending is so heart-wrenchingly bittersweet that you hunger for the next book. I was at the point of tears myself when I read the ending, and without spoiling it for anyone, it is something that will definitely mark you.
The Dragon Factory exceeded my expectations and is actually a better novel than the first. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately bought the next novel in the series: The King of Plagues.
But that, dear friends, is a review for another time. Say…next time.
Heroes: Joe Ledger is much more human and the cast is thoroughly enjoyable. These are heroes I can root for. – 5/5
Villains: It’s hard to come up with villains that surpassed the last bunch, or were even on par with them. Mr. Maberry knows how to make good villains. – 5/5
Narrative: Nothing has really changed from the previous review. The previous score stands. – 5/5
Plot: Purely dastardly. – 5/5
Science: I think we have found a science system that is more unbelievable than the zombies. But it works just the same and it is purely terrifying. – 4/5
World: Take a shot every time we go to an underground lab. – 4/5