Review of Joe Ledger: The Missing Files by Jonathan Maberry

August 22, 2012 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Horror Audiobook - Joe Ledger: The Missing Files by Jonathan MaberryJoe Ledger: The Missing Files
By Jonathan Maberry; Read by Ray Porter
4 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2012
Themes: / Short Stories / Supernatural / Horror / Bio-engineering /

The description for this brief collection of short stories says “… author Jonathan Maberry fills in the blanks in his action-thriller ‘Joe Ledger’ novels.”

This isn’t something I’d have picked up myself and, frankly, wouldn’t have bothered if it weren’t sent as a review book. I am usually disinterested in add-on short stories that sew up “loose ends” of novels or serve to tell us what a character’s been doing between one book and the next. In my experience, those are toss-offs and these days, what with 99-cent stories on Amazon, they just serve as money grabbers.

However, we all know I’m a sucker for Joe Ledger and I absolutely love the narrator’s way with these stories so if I wasted a few hours on mental cotton candy so be it. Also I was mildly interested in what seem to be two stories that aren’t connected to any novels, “Deep, Dark” and “Material Witness.”

Countdown: The prequel to Patient Zero and it told me nothing I didn’t learn in the beginning of the book. Honestly, it seemed as if it were a story prospectus given to a publisher to gain interest.

Zero Tolerance: The second story added a little to Patient Zero‘s ending since it could have been called “What Happened to Amirah.” (Pardon my spelling as I’ve only heard the audio for the novel.) Worth paying for? Not to me.

Deep, Dark: With the third story we get to something interesting. As is the case in Joe Ledger novels, it teeters on the knife’s edge between probability and supernatural/horror fiction. The Army has a little problem in one of their underground complexes. A little bio-engineered problem. It’s just a “bug hunt,” as it goes in one of my favorite lines from Aliens, but one that has righteousness on its side.

Material Witness: This story was more interesting than anything preceding it (or following, as it turned out … yes, foreshadowing!). However, that was mostly because Maberry was filling us in on another series of his: the creepiness that is Pine Deep, Pennsylvania. Imagine the house from The Shining, but … it’s a whole town! Maberry’s melding of the two worlds was rather intriguing but not enough to make me want to get whatever book it was he wrote about Pine Deep. For one thing, spoilers abound. I wonder if I already knew all about that “world” if the story would have kept my attention as it did.

Dog Days: The final story and the one which was the test of whether Maberry had improved at short story writing or whether the previous two just created interest because of the unfamiliar material. Yep. Choose door number two. It wasn’t a terrible story, just extremely easy to figure out as Joe Ledger goes to settle a personal grudge against the world’s deadliest assassin. The most interesting thing about it to me was the introduction of Ghost, the wonder dog. One feels (at least I do) that this should have been a prequel or flashback in The King of Plagues. I especially feel this since I spent much of the beginning of that book wondering what the heck happened to Ledger’s cat and why only one or two sentences gave us the dog’s history. This almost reads as discovery writing or something that was edited from a book. Ghost is ok, but he is definitely “made” to be Ledger’s dog, as he is a Wonder Dog with super-canine reflexes and understanding.

Summing up – these files could’ve stayed missing. It’s only four hours long but that is four hours you could use on something uniformly good.

Posted by Julie D.

Review of The King of Plagues by Jonathan Maberry

July 27, 2012 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Horror Audiobook - The King of Plagues by Jonathan MaberryThe King of Plagues
By Jonathan Maberry; Read by Ray Porter
15.5 Hours – [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Published: 2011
Themes: / Horror / Assassins / Virus / Bio-engineering / Thriller /
 
 

… He paused. “Tell me again what Scofield said to you. About the river of blood.”

I closed my eyes and found the words. “‘They said that if the rivers didn’t run red with blood, then the blood of my family would run like a river.'”

“Yes. That troubles me.”

“All of it troubles me. The phrasing doesn’t match the rest of what he said. He was clearly quoting, or attempting to quote, something that was said to him. It has a distinctly biblical structure to it. Rivers running red with blood. You’re going to need a different kind of specialist to sort that out. Not my kind of job … I’m a shooter.”

When a huge London hospital is rocked by bomb blasts, thousands are dead or injured. Joe Ledger arrives to investigate and within hours is attacked by assassins and then sent into a viral hot zone during an Ebola outbreak.

Joe has tangled with zombies and he’s battled with dragons. Now he’s up against the seven plagues of Egypt, the best that bio-engineering can provide. What would the seven plagues be without a secret society concocting them for our doom? Not much, of course, and The Seven Kings have a worldwide conspiracy that will test Joe to his utmost.

I especially enjoyed the fact that, unlike the previous two books, readers do not know what the terrorists are planning. Each new attack is experienced along with Joe Ledger as unthinkable plagues descend first upon one place and then another.

That said, the book is still fairly straight-forward about most of the “mysteries” Joe encounters. A young researcher’s family connections seem obvious, as does the source of the final attack that Joe and his team must stop to save the world. Misdirection may be the hallmark of the Seven Kings but it isn’t something that Maberry seems to worry about too much. If it works, then it works. If not, well there is still a ripping good thriller to read.

Interestingly, Maberry includes a henchman with more of a conscience than one expects in a conspiracy of unfathomable evil. This follows the trend of The Dragon Factory where Paris, though capable of committing abominable individual acts, draws the line at mass destruction or EVIL as Maberry would call it. Does this mean there is lesser evil and greater EVIL? Or is it rather like saying that Hitler loved dogs so he had a good side to his personality? I’m not sure just what Maberry is getting at, but it is a very interesting development in his villains.

Villains aside, there is not a lot of character development because it simply isn’t that sort of book, although we do get a bit more light shed on the mysterious Mr. Church. I also enjoyed the addition of Joe’s dog, Ghost, who seems to have almost supernatural abilities of his own as the most perfectly trained attack dog ever. (But, let’s be fair. What other sort of attack dog could keep up with Joe?)

On the negative side, an audio book is not the ideal way to experience some of the torture used on the people forced to help The Seven Kings. It is what one expects from this sort of thriller, but one description was enough and we were treated to several. Also, the description of the Biblical plagues and the contest between Moses and the court magicians was one of the worst I’ve ever heard. It wouldn’t have taken much to remove the idea of “God teaching Moses magic” and tell the original story. It certainly would have taken nothing away from the book. However, this is quibbling and not something that is going to dampen most people’s enjoyment.

Ray Porter continues to do a pitch perfect job narratin the Joe Ledger books. His narration is a key part of the “Joe Ledger experience” for me and, as I’ve noted in other reviews, is the reason I prefer the narration to reading the book myself.

Fast paced and tightly written, The King of Plagues just might be the perfect summer superhero book. If you like your superhero as a hard-bitten shooter, with a white dog named Ghost, who likes nothing better than slaying monsters, that is.

Posted by Julie D.