The Dragon Factory: Not as good as Patient Zero

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsJonathan Maberry The Dragon FactoryThe Dragon Factory by Jonathan Maberry

CLASSIFICATION: Like Patient Zero, The Dragon Factory is an exciting, action-packed techno-thriller in the vein of James Rollins’ SIGMA FORCE novels and 24. Instead of the Resident Evil/28 Days Later-like zombie/horror elements though, the book brought to mind 80s-era G.I. Joe and James Bond due to the villains and their outlandish ideas.

FORMAT/INFO: The Dragon Factory is 496 pages long divided over four titled Parts, 133 numbered chapters, and an Epilogue. Narration alternates between the first-person POV of the protagonist Joe Ledger and numerous third-person POVs including heroes (Major Grace Courtland, Mr. Church, First Sgt. Bradley Sims, Eighty-two), villains (Cyrus Jakoby, Otto Wirths, the twins Hecate & Paris Jakoby, Conrad Veder) and minor charactors. The Dragon Factory is the second JOE LEDGER novel after Patient Zero, but is mostly self-contained, although the ending does leaves room for the next sequel, The King of Plagues.

March 2, 2010 marks the North American Trade Paperback publication of The Dragon Factory via St. Martin’s Griffin. The UK edition (see below) will be published on April 15, 2010 via Gollancz.

ANALYSIS: Jonathan Maberry’s Patient Zero was quite possibly the most entertaining novel I read in all of 2009. As a result, the sequel couldn’t come fast enough for me. Unfortunately, Patient Zero must have set the bar too high, because even though The Dragon Factory was another entertaining reading experience, the book never lived up to the first JOE LEDGER novel.

Side-by-side, there’s not a lot of differences between The Dragon Factory and Patient Zero. Both books star Joe Ledger, the DMS and a supporting cast that includes Mr. Church, Grace Courtland, Rudy Sanchez, Dr. Hu, Echo Team, etc. Both feature diabolical villains with their diabolical plots to take over or reshape the world. And both are fast-paced action-thrillers propelled by ultra-short chapters and multiple narratives. Basically, The Dragon Factory is a lot like Patient Zero except bigger. Longer page count, more evil villains, a crazier plot, higher stakes, and so on. In this case though, bigger doesn’t mean better.

For one, the story took well over 200 pages before getting to the good stuff, thanks to an uninteresting NSA/Vice President subplot and an inordinate amount of time spent on establishing how evil Cyrus Jakoby, Otto Wirths, the Extinction Clock, and the twins were — information that could have been expressed in less than half the time. On top of that, the plot was predictable with very few surprises, not to mention the use of such tired ideas like mad scientists, secret labs, Russians, Nazis, a master race program, and references to the Cold War and Josef Mengele.

Two, the villains were just over-the-top, so much so that they felt cartoonish rather than scary, and I was much more impressed with El Mujahid, Amirah and Sebastian Gault from Patient Zero rather than anyone from The Dragon Factory. This actually ties in with another problem I had with the book: a lack of plausibility. While Patient Zero featured zombies, those zombies were based on actual science in a scenario that I could somewhat imagine happening in the real world. The stuff depicted in The Dragon Factory is based on actual science as well, but it was just too over-the-top. Plus, there was so much of it that between weaponized genetic diseases, cloning, Cyrus’ actual identity, the New Men, berserkers, tiger-hounds, Stingers, and the Chamber of Myth, it just became impossible for me to suspend my disbelief.

Finally, Jonathan Maberry uses too many POVs in the book. Normally I enjoy the multiple narrative format, especially when it includes villians as well as the good guys and minor characters, but in this case I felt it was a detriment to the novel, in particular to Joe Ledger who seemed lost in his own book. In other words, Joe’s narrative lacked much of the rough charm and biting humor that made him so cool and interesting in Patient Zero.

On the flipside, the action portrayed in The Dragon Factory is still fast, furious and pulse-pounding; the pacing remains electric; the writing is once again skillfully executed; and the book, like Patient Zero, is just a lot of fun to read. Plus, Jonathan Maberry shows that he’s not afraid to kill off his characters, and the ending is a powerful one, promising some interesting directions to explore in the next sequel.

CONCLUSION: All in all, The Dragon Factory was a disappointment compared to Patient Zero, but I still enjoyed reading the book and look forward to The King of Plagues. I just hope the sequel is more like Patient Zero instead of The Dragon Factory.

~Robert Thompson


Jonathan Maberry The Dragon FactoryAfter the wild ride that was Patient Zero, this JOE LEDGER novel is a bit of a letdown. There is still plenty of monster fighting, but I found the bad guys in this novel to be caricatures more than characters.

~Terry Weyna

Joe Ledger — (2009- ) Publisher: ‘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.’ Police officer Joe Ledger, martial arts expert, ex-army, self-confessed brutal warrior is scared. The man he’s just killed is the same man he killed a week ago. He never expected to see the man again, definitely not alive, and definitely not as part of the recruitment process for the hyper-secret government agency the Department for Military Sciences. But the DMS are scared too — they have word of a terrorist plot straight from a nightmare — a bid to spread a plague through America — a plague that kills its victims and turns them into zombies. Time is running out and Joe has shown he has the abilities they need to lead one of their field teams. And so begins a desperate three mission — to contain the zombie outbreaks, to break the terrorist cell responsible and to find the man in their own team who is selling them out to the terrorists. Patient Zero is astonishingly fast moving, incredibly violent and down-right terrifying thriller — a new breed of thriller of techo-thriller that plays on our fears of mad science.

Jonathan Maberry 1. Patient Zero, 2. The Dragon Factory, 3. The King of PlaguesJonathan Maberry 1. Patient Zero, 2. The Dragon Factory, 3. The King of PlaguesJonathan Maberry 1. Patient Zero, 2. The Dragon Factory, 3. The King of PlaguesJonathan Maberry 1. Patient Zero, 2. The Dragon Factory, 3. The King of Plagues 4. Assassin's Codefantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDogs of War: A Joe Ledger Novel Kindle Edition by Jonathan Maberry

Joe Ledger Short Stories:

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See more stories in this series at Amazon.


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ROBERT THOMPSON (on FanLit's staff July 2009 — October 2011) is the creator and former editor of Fantasy Book Critic, a website dedicated to the promotion of speculative fiction. Before FBC, he worked in the music industry editing Kings of A&R and as an A&R scout for Warner Bros. Besides reading and music, Robert also loves video games, football, and art. He lives in the state of Washington with his wife Annie and their children Zane and Kayla. Robert retired from FanLit in October 2011 after more than 2 years of service. He doesn't do much reviewing anymore, but he still does a little work for us behind the scenes.

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TERRY WEYNA, on our staff since December 2010, would rather be reading than doing almost anything else. She longs to be a full-time reviewer, critic, scholar and writer, but nonetheless continues to practice law as a civil litigator in California. Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor emeritus and writer Fred White, the imperious but aging Cordelia Louise Cat Weyna-White, and a forever-growing personal library that presently exceeds 15,000 volumes.

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