Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences are tasked with saving the world again, only this time they don’t even know what they are fighting until it is almost too late. Two competing groups of geneticists are trying to take over the world, one by manipulating genes to make animalistic super-soldiers and bring to life dangerous mythical creatures, and another by creating a pathogen to wipe out the “Mud People” and continue the Nazi Master Race program. The Nazis have set an Extinction Clock, counting down until their pathogen will be released and no one will be able to stop the death that will follow. Ledger, his not-so-secret lover Grace Courtland, psychologist friend Rudy, and the mysterious leader of DMS Church must find the geneticists and stop the Extinction Clock before it reaches zero.
I read Patient Zero a few weeks ago (and reviewed it here!) and loved it, so I had high hopes for the The Dragon Factory, the second installment in the Joe Ledger series. Once again, I was very impressed by author Jonathan Maberry’s exceptionally creepy and evil villains. The first were Cyrus Jakoby and his second-in-command Otto Wirths. We are first introduced to these characters on the very first page of the story, and they are described like this:
Otto Wirths was the second-worst mass murderer in the history of the world. Compared to him Hitler, Stalin, Attila the Hun and even Alexander the Great were amateurs, poseurs who could not hold a candle to Otto and his body count.
Only one person was worse.
Before you can even wrap your mind around this description, you read that Cyrus and Otto are giggling as they set the Extinction Clock, and prepare to put into motion a plan that will murder millions of innocent people. The amount of evil contained in this first page and a half is almost over-whelming. And, in typical Maberry fashion, it only gets more intense. Enter the Jakoby Twins, Hecate and her brother Paris, brilliant albinos who are constantly in the tabloids for their exploits. To the general public they are entertainment; to their buyers they are gods who can genetically engineer almost anything. They think they control their father Cyrus, he thinks he controls them, and they are all watching the Extinction Clock tick.
Joe Ledger has barely recovered from his last major task with DMS when he is jumped by NSA agents while visiting the grave of his deceased girlfriend. Working under orders from the Vice President who doesn’t like Church very much, the NSA is trying to shut down DMS. Things quickly spiral out of control from there. In addition to the race to stop the madmen, Joe is also trying to sort out his feelings for Major Grace Courtland, who has become his girlfriend, and he fears he is falling in love with her. This adds some drama to the story, since both Joe and Grace need to find a way to do their jobs without their feelings for each other getting in the way. In my review of Patient Zero, I said I liked Grace and wanted to see more of her in the next book. We did get to see more of her, even though it wasn’t really until the end of the novel, and it was great. It’s always a nice change of pace hearing things from her point of view.
The timeline in this story almost became it’s own character. Jumping back and forth in time, and starting every chapter with the “Time Remaining on the Extinction Clock” definitely added to the tension. It did seem that the clock moved VERY slowly at the beginning of the novel, and then suddenly extremely quickly at the end, but I suppose that was partly to be expected, even if I didn’t particularly like it. I could have done with a few less point of view changes in this novel as well. While I do typically like reading from various perspectives, this was almost too many different perspectives, and it sometimes slowed things down. I can’t say I actually lost interest in the story, but I did want some of those parts to be shorter or move more quickly.
The ending of this novel blew me away. I absolutely can’t wait to see what happens next.