Monday, September 13, 2010

Patient Zero

I returned home from Florida on the day Hurricane Hermine visited the Gulf Coast. I spent most of the day in the Tampa Airport surrounded by American Airlines staff who kept promising my flight would take off as soon as the weather in Texas improved.

Although I got home nearly five hours later than planned to a city battling floods, I almost didn't notice. You see, I was reading a book by a new author. I'll tell you more about it and him in a minute.

The weekend before I left for Florida, I did my semi-annual "clear out some of the books" purge. I brought six bags of books to Paperbacks Plus in East Dallas where they gave me $39 in cash and $119 in store credit.

While I was waiting for the clerk to assess my trade-ins, I checked out the "Recently Published" shelves. I'd already been to B&N to pick up the fourth Connor Grey book by Mark Del Franco, Unperfect Souls, to read on the way TO Florida and was looking for something for the flight home.

I wasn't having much luck finding anything when I noticed a trade paperback by Jonathan Maberry titled Patient Zero. It was published in 2009 by St. Martin's Press. Here's the cover that caught my attention:

I opened the book to this first paragraph:
When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, then there's either something wrong with your skills or something wrong with your world.

And there's nothing wrong with my skills.
That's a seriously terrific opening. I carried the book up to the counter to buy it. The clerk exclaimed, "Oh, I've heard fabulous things about that book. I wish I'd seen it first."

Here's the cover copy:
Joe Ledger, a Baltimore detective assigned to a counterterrorism task force, is recruited by the government to lead a new ultrasecret rapid-response group called the Department of Military Science (DMS) to help stop a group of terrorists from releasing a dreadful bioweapon that can turn ordinary people into zombies.
The novel is fast and furious. A pharmaceutical company owner has joined forces with a Middle Eastern terrorist and the terrorist's scientist wife to develop a type of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). TSE diseases are fatal neurodegenerative diseases caused by a kind of misfolded protein called a prion. The best-known TSE is Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, also known as Mad-Cow Disease. Another lesser-known TSE is Fatal Familial Insomnia. If you want to lose some sleep yourself, check out the Wikipedia entry on FFI here.

Maberry does a marvelous job of spinning his novel's premise from the factual details of TSE diseases and prions. In his world, the custom-made disease is spread by bites from infected subjects who become mindless enraged creatures after being bitten themselves. The terrorists plan to release infected subjects into the U.S. to destroy the country. Joe Ledger and his team are frantically trying to prevent that from happening.

The book is simply dynamite. I was on the edge of my plastic molded seat in the Tampa Airport, utterly riveted by the story. While I won't tell you any more about the novel, I will tell you something about the writer, Joe Maberry.

Maberry won the Bram Stoker Award for the Best First Horror Novel in 2006. In 2007, he won another Bram Stoker Award for the Best Horror Non-Fiction of the year. In 2008, he was nominated again for a Bram Stoker Award for the Best Horror Non-Fiction, although he didn't win. And in 2009 Patient Zero was nominated for a Bram Stoker for the Best Fiction Novel of the year. It lost out to Audrey's Door by Sarah Langan, a book I am determined to find because I can't imagine any awards committee picking another novel over this one.

If you think you might be interested in Patient Zero, Maberry's website offers this as a "prequel" to the novel. I suspect it's a draft of one of the early chapters. It will give you a taste of the book.

Glad to be home and looking forward to talking again about writing and publishing.


Maria Zannini said...

Welcome back! I've missed you!

Mike Keyton said...

And thanks for the book tip!

Maya Reynolds said...

Thanks!! I've missed you, too.

Maya Reynolds said...

It's a great read, Mike.