The King of Plagues (Joe Ledger #3) ★☆☆☆☆ DNF@30%

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Title: The King of Plagues
Series: Joe Ledger #3
Editor: Jonathan Maberry
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 492 / 160
Words: 151K / 50K



Synopsis:

DNF@30%

My Thoughts:

By the 30% mark Maberry had used the term “hate crime” 15 times. I quit reading when he used the term to justify a muslim special forces guy beating people so badly that they ended up in the Emergency Room because they used words he didn’t like. It’s called Free Speech, for good AND bad. When you start telling people what words they can and cannot say or use, you have entered the Deep State.

So adios Maberry, you confirmed my fears about you and I’ll be avoiding you like the plague from now on.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

The Dragon Factory (Joe Ledger #2) ★★★☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: The Dragon Factory
Series: Joe Ledger #2
Editor: Jonathan Maberry
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Action/Adventure
Pages: 578
Words: 162K



Synopsis:

From Theledgerfiles.fandom.com

The story starts three months after the events of Patient Zero. Joe Ledger and Echo Team has run a number of missions for the DMS, terrorists cells closed, assassination attempts thwarted, and the like. Joe is visiting the grave of his former girlfriend, Helen, when he is approached by NSA agents. Under the orders of the Vice President, while the President is in heart surgery, they are attempting to seize control of all DMS staff, properties, and equipment. DMS teams and facilities are trying to keep their control, using threats and dissuasion. Joe ditches his tails and gets the info from Church. Jigsaw team has gone dark, and they’ve received a weird email from an unknown source. Joe is sent to Denver to find out what happened.

Cyrus Jakoby, and his assistant Otto, are brilliant geneticists. They are celebrating their greatest achievement yet: in one week, the extinction wave will begin, and all of the mud people of earth will be dead. Paris Jakoby, and his sister Hecate, god-like specimens of beauty and genius geneticists in their own right are pushing their own agenda: making billions of dollars and standing on top of the world.

While Joe was visiting Helen and escaping the NSA, the rest of echo team is approaching a man hiding out in a rundown hotel. It was a routine pick-up turned bad as their newest addition, Big Bob Farraday, got half his body shot up by Russians with automatics; Bunny and Top take them out. Church contacts them and fills them in in a hurry, they must leave and move fast to avoid the NSA and rendezvous with Captain Ledger in Denver for backup.

Church informs Joe that Captain Peterson and Jigsaw team has gone dark on a mission in a storage facility called Deep Iron in Denver. Maybe NSA got to them but he doesn’t think so, he wants Joe and echo team to find out. Church also contacts Linden Brierly, and uses a Presidential Alert protocol to make him wake up the president from his surgical recovery as soon as possible and put an end to the Vise Presidents coupe. He reaches out to the President’s wife, who has tremendous respect for Joe Ledger since he saved her life at the Liberty Bell zombie outbreak. She agrees to help them out.

On the flight to Deep Iron, Joe video-conferences with Dr. Hu and Church and is shown a video from the unknown email of a hunting party tracking and shooting a real-life unicorn, very poor audio but the video was clear. Hu and his team verify its legitimacy. The video was sent by an anonymous person in an old email account held by Church. Church recognizes one man from the video, Gunnar Heckel, who should not be alive. Heckel was involved in a group called the Cabal. The Cabal was an evil group active during the later years of the Cold War, bent on ethnic cleansing and was behind racial conflicts over last half of the 20th century. A younger Church, apart of a group known as The List, systematically took apart the Cabal and everything they had created. Seeing Heckel in the video, they think someone has re-formed the Cabal and is picking up where they left off. Heckel’s family had a storage unit of information inside Deep Iron, and Echo team must retrieve it.

Upon landing on an airfield near Deep Iron, echo team meets up with Brick Anderson. Brick is a DMS soldier with an artificial leg driving a Mr. Softee truck which is also a rolling arsenal. He drives echo team to Deep Iron and guards the entrance while they make they way down to the lowest parts of the facility, wishing for back-up, but with the NSA hounding down all of their agents none can be provided. Moving to their destination, where Jigsaw team was headed looking for Gunner Heckels data storage, Echo encounters blood, lots of it. There are Deep Iron staff and Russian special forces torn to pieces; some still alive to put up a fight. Finally reaching their destination, they are ambushed by two huge berserkers: modified super soldiers, ape DNA and other sorts added to their genes to be stronger, fiercer, and more aggressive. Overpowering Top and Bunny, Joe is fighting quick and smart, with his rapid release knife and going for the head and face, its only vulnerable parts. The berserkers run off injured, but they got what they come for; although echo has a lot more of Heckels data they can comb through to find answers. The DMS brings in Jerry Spencer to go through the crime scene to uncover any data they can salvage. Spencer uncovers many documents and also the remains of Jigsaw team, who has been killed. The papers are revealed to be medical data and horrible experiments: pain and endurance testing on human beings in the nazi camps, performed by Joseph Mengele.

The President wakes up, very pissed off, reams out the VP for his actions, and the DMS is able to get its backup and resources they desperately need. Rudy is sent to the Hub, DMS’s Denver site, to talk through the recent events and the loss of Jigsaw. The twins lost their tie to the VP, they have been manipulating events to try and acquire MindReader from Church and the DMS to further the progress of their own research.

Back at the warehouse Joe, Grace, Hu, and Bug go over all the new data and recent events. Friends of Church from The List have been killed over the last few months. When they first killed off the Cabal, Church acquired Pangea, a software package they used to steal research around the world without a trace. Church later upgraded and added functionality, it is now known as MindReader. He and Aunt Sally are the last surviving members of the List. The team discusses Mengele’s work and the data recovered from Heckle’s bin at Deep Iron. But are at a loss as to what may be going on.

The team is interrupted by another email, sent by a kid, who sent the previous email with the unicorn video. The kid is using video chat this time to get his message across, he is trying to reach Church and get his help to stop the bad men. He explains the horrible plans that are about to commence and the location of the bioweapons factory called The Hive.

Echo team rolls out to his location, to make contact and retrieve him and any information he has. The kid helps them in, but they hit heavy resilience against guards and modified creatures called Tiger Hounds: giant fierce dog beasts. Echo team acquires the kid and saves a strange group of people called the New Men, although with every new bit of info they recover their hatred increases. Unable to get info from their computer drives, Joe Ledger forces the information out of the guard, Carteret, by slapping him into submission. Church and Bug discover the extinction wave plans. Backup clears the island of remaining enemies and Joe and Grace can get back into each other’s arms.

Cyrus and Otto, always at odds with the twins Paris and Hecate, not knowing where their Dragon Factory is, putting up with their disrespect, are tricked into believing their treachery because of the DMS attack in the Hive. They make plans on attacking the Factory with their Russian mercenary army, killing at least one of them, and acquiring all of their research. Their personal assassin, Conrad Veder, will join them. Veder has been on the hunt for surviving members of The List for the past few months, to clear the road for the ne Cabals plans.

The DMS has taken in the kid, although he doesn’t feel at home anywhere. Church is looking through reports, the kids DNA and fingerprints are a match to Gunnar Heckel and Hans Gruber. With the information the kid provided, and what they got out of Carterette, they realize the scope of their problems. This is a global ethnic cleansing happening, and they need to stop it. They might have caught it sooner if not for all of the NSA slowing them down. DMS locates another facility, the Deck, and moves in, but as the are moving in, Cyrus and Otto are being picked up by the twins to be taken to their facility, the Dragon Factory. Joe and echo search through the Deck while Grace and alpha head to the Dragon Factory and take it before echo arrives.

In the factory, the twins are giving a tour to Cyrus and his group, culminating at the Chamber of Myth, a room of their most fantastic creatures. Cyrus surprises the twins by killing their little dragon and unveiling his grand plans, admitting his disappointment in them, while his soviet team attacks the island. Grace and alpha team are attacking the island as well. Cyrus unveils the extinction wave to them and who he really is; after many plans over the previous decades, he, Joseph Mengele, still alive after finding the anti-aging gene, has the extinction wave set to play.

Alarms sound and grace is separated as she dives into chamber after the group, wanting to get the trigger device that will launch the extinction wave in the coming hours. The whole island is hit by an EMP to stop them from launching the wave, but also cutting down all their team’s electronics. Joe and echo race to catch up to alpha and grace, cutting through soviets, berserkers, and other mutations on the island. Cyrus group makes their way to Hecate’s office, where she has a computer unaffected by the EMP so they can start the wave. Grace follows in pursuit, and Joe is trying to catch up to help. The rest of echo is backing up DMS teams and catching up further behind.

Grace Courtland bursts into the office and shoots down everybody, but not before Cyrus was able to get the Go-Order out. Still alive, Cyrus as the abort sequence, but before Grace could make him say it, she is shot in the back by Conrad Veder and dies in Joe’s arms. Joe snaps inside of his own head. Conrad Veder escapes as Joe is forced to stay to ferociously kill the remaining berserkers and get the abort codes from Cyrus, which he does, at great and painful lengths put on Cyrus Jakoby.

They had successfully stopped the global attack. Joe spends weeks in the hospital recovering, reflecting on what happened. Thousands turn out to Grace’s funeral, she was a celebrity who had saved the world. The teams working with the Jakobys’ to release pathogens were hunted down and dismantled by the DMS and local officials. Joe is done with hunting evil, he is tired and worn out. He quits the DMS. And on his way out, has a folder from Church, containing the recent location and relevant info on Conrad Veder.

My Thoughts:

I’m going to write about the reasons this was only a three star then I’ll go into the reasons I still enjoyed the book.

There is a semi-graphic sex scene between Joe Ledger and Grace Courtland. How it was handled reminded me of how this type of thing was handled in Maberry’s V-War series and I’m wondering if perhaps Maberry is a perv. Doesn’t matter though, it was there and I didn’t want it to be there. Then you have some extremely snide and derogatory comments about President George W Bush. At the same time Maberry makes it clear that the President in this story is President Obama but how he writes him has no bearing on reality unless you’re coaked to the gills and on prescription meds. I don’t mind idolizing a President that you (as an author) admire but when it goes hand in hand with denigrating the previous administration by name, that’s not so ok. It is typical of a certain politial party here in the US though. In the V-Wars series, there was a character created by Maberry who was of the “Oh, Vampires are People too and can’t we all just get along” type that grated on me like I was cheese. I thought then that maybe Maberry was writing him to give a counterpoint to the rest of the story. However, that exact same attitude seems to be creeping into this series and I’m worried that it is actually springing from Maberry. If it is, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the series. Finally, some of the badguys were a pair of twins (man and woman) and there was a real twincest vibe going on with non-graphic descriptions of their orgies with them both using the same lover. It was disgusting.

With all of that being said.

This was a fantastic action/adventure story. Maberry really ratchets up the stakes by having the DMS, the agency that Ledger works for, being taken out of action by the Vice-President of the United States at the behest of the nazi’s who are secretly plotting to kill every non-white in the world. Yep, super-secret mad scientist nazi’s. No joke.

Ledger is a killing machine and the monsters and other special forces operators that take out regularly trained guys left and right, well, he just mows them down like grass. I mean, he shoves a knife down a genetic super-soldier’s throat and lives to tell about it. You can’t beat that kind of action 🙂

The mad scientist nazi’s felt a tiny bit over the top but not by much. That says something that Maberry can write that and get away with it. I would have been impressed if I hadn’t been rolling my eyes just a bit. Of course, now I am left to wonder how Maberry is going to one-up that situation? Joseph Stalin Terminatori’ized? The devil breaking through from a portal on Mars? Whatever he decides, he’s definitely got his work cut out for him.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Patient Zero (Joe Ledger #1) ★★★★☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Patient Zero
Series: Joe Ledger #1
Editor: Jonathan Maberry
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Action/Adventure
Pages: 346
Words: 141.5K



Synopsis:

From Theledgerfiles.fandom.com

The book opens with Detective Joe Ledger attempting to enjoy a day at Ocean City Beach in Maryland, when he is approached by FBI agents and escorted to an undisclosed location. He reluctantly goes with them knowing he could easily escape if he had to, wondering if this is about the warehouse raid his task force had done the week before. They bring him to see a man named Mr. Church who wants him to audition for a position in his new organization, an ultra-secret counter-terrorism group called the Department of Military Science (DMS). He does so by subduing a man he had killed the week before at the warehouse, Javad Mustapha, by breaking his jaw and snapping his neck. Zombies, Joes’ world turns upside down. Church explains the possibility of other terrorist cells with potential zombies out there, and says he may be in touch in the future for help. Joe is returned to his car and advised not to try and look for any information on Church or the DMS, because he won’t find any.

Joe picks up his friend and psychiatrist Dr. Rudy Sanchez and explains to him everything that has happened. Rudy believes him, and they both spend days trying to find information regarding Church, the DMS, and prion diseases causing zombies to no avail. Even the police report on the warehouse raid is gone. Rudy then vanishes, taken by the DMS to the warehouse, and Joe heads out to rescue him. He is welcomed inside, taken to Mr. Church, sees Rudy with a gun to his head, and is forced to agree to join the DMS in their fight on terror. The drama is explained away by their dire situation, and Rudy joins up with the DMS as well. Joe is then put into a room with five other candidates to decide who the leader of the new team will be, big and tough looking guys from Marines, Force Recon, and the like. Joe knocks them all into submission within seconds, and takes the title of Captain of Echo Team, with the men he just pummeled as his crew.

Afterwards Joe is introduced to Major Grace Courtland a former SAS member on semi-permanent load to the DMS. She and Mr. Church explain to him what the DMS is, their tool MindReader, and the disaster at St. Michaels, where their first zombie outbreak got out of control. We learn this is generation three of the pathogen. With how terrible things went down, Echo team is called to move out immediately, before they can even start their first bit of training, to hit the newly found site of another cell with potential zombies. Echo Team witnesses horror at the meatpacking plant, scientists pushing walkers towards screaming children, and in a moment of rage, Echo team runs in guns blazing to take down the enemy and save as many kids as they can. Having to put down a turned child, Joe and Echo are even more enraged, and demand to hit the second site ASAP.

They are forced to rest for few hours first; it’s been a long and traumatizing day. Joe meets the DMS scientists and Dr. Hu, who explains the science of this disease happening. Suddenly, the zombies being held for study by the DMS get out of the lab and attack the staff. Joe, Bunny, and Top respond first on site to put down the threat with minimal losses. Church starts an investigation with team leaders about the incident. With the knowledge of at least one traitor in the facility and a bitten soldier, Echo team is sent out to hit the second site immediately.

At the crab plant, Echo team is on a look-and-see mission only, with Alpha and Bravo on back-up. Information is the most important thing they need now. But after their successful infiltration, they stumble into what turns out to be a huge ambush. Hundreds of walkers are set loose on the team, communication jammed, explosions kill many of their back-up, Ollie and Skip go missing, and they fight to their last bullet and ounce of energy to stay alive. Gus Dietrich and the cavalry save them in their last surviving moments. They manage to keep a prisoner alive for a short time and get information out of him concerning the terrorist responsible El Mujahid and the disease Seif al Din; they also realize the possibility of creating a cure for something this frightening bringing in trillions of dollars to the research and distribution industry, and wonder if someone there might have a hand in this.

Joe brings in Det. Jerry Spencer, a former Baltimore Police Crime Scene Inspector that worked with Joe in the past, to join the DMS and learn what he can from the horrible scene at the crab plant; He is the best at what ae does. Joe questions Skip Tyler and Oliver Brown about them going missing under suspicious causes as there is a mole in the DMS. They learn their ambush at the plant was all a set-up to make them think their new information was legit. And that a pharmaceutical company, or something in the industry, must be behind this terrorist group, in it for the money.

Joe has a hunch on an impending attack, a possibility from the intel they’ve found. He requests that Echo Team, along with Grace and Rudy, be put inside the Secret Service detail that is on guard at the Liberty Bell Re-Dedication ceremony on the Fourth of July. They interview Linden Brierly, regional director of the secret service, and Robert Howell Lee director of special operations for the FBI/Homeland joint command, to get info on the event and the men they sent to the DMS when Church was first building it up, searching for their traitor.

Joe was correct; this was the event El Mujahid was using to unleash his pathogen onto the western world. Disguised, Mujahid unleashes generation 10 of the pathogen into the crowd, the most virulent of the strain so far. Joe and Top Sims chase him down, but he has infected himself with generation 12 of the strain. Immortal, able to keep his consciousness and higher brain functions. Top battles with Skip, who turned out to be the traitor, while Joe takes down El Mujahid in an intense close-quarters fight that ends with Joe taking off Mujahids’ head with the blade of a table top paper cutter. Bunny, Gus, Grace, and Rudy saved as many lives as they could at the main event, many were lost and turned, but the entire outbreak was contained.

The director from Homeland, Robert Howell Lee, attempted to kill himself, being a mole for the terrorist group, but was revived and questioned by Church. Lee admitted everything the DMS didn’t know, the involvement of the famous Sebastian Gault , hero of the world for all his Red Cross funding and million dollar medical research company. He was funding El Mujahid and his wife Amirah to just threaten the USA with this horrible disease so they would make billions developing the cure, but was betrayed when they wanted to actually release the plague to kill the western world. Sebastian and his assistant Toys destroy El Mujahids’ bunker in Afghanistan where the disease was being developed and kill Amirah who has also taken generation 12 of the pathogen. They are last seen taking a Red Cross boat away, with fake identities, covered in bandages and burns.

Church returns to the DMS base called the Hanger in Floyd Bennett Field, and leaves Joe and Grace in charge of the Warehouse in Baltimore.

My Thoughts:

Talk about the perfect book at the perfect time. I wanted some serious kick butt macho man action and boy did I get it in spades here! If this book had been a hamburger, it would have been Wendy’s Triple Cheeseburger.

Joe gets recruited into the super secret DMS (Department of Military Science) where they stop super threats before they happen. They are blacker than Al Sharpton and have all the power and the toys needed to do their job. Joe is immediately thrown into action stopping a zombie plague from being released. On top of that, there appears to be a traitor within the ranks of the DMS that he needs to worry about too. Then they find out the zombie plague is set to hit the United States on July 4th and decimate the nation. Joe can’t let that happen and he kicks butt to stop it.

While Ledger is Action Man in the flesh, the side characters play just as big a role and made this book what it was. Mr Church, the mysterious head of the DMS is appropriately mysterious and scary all at the same time. Ledger has a head shrink who gets caught up in the whirlpool and sucked into the DMS. There’s a British chick that plays the love interest and honestly, she and Ledger hooked up WAAAAYYY to fast. Slow it down buddy or she’s going to end up as plot fodder. There’s some scientists and other Action Men to round out the Good Guys. The bad guys were deliciously bad. No grey namby pamby pansy wimpos. These were the geniune article of Bad Guy. They were smart, devious and dedicated to the death of all America. THAT is how you write a bad guy!

For some reason I was expecting there to be a supernatural element to the series but at first blush it would appear to be a Super Science Goes Wrong kind of thing more than any supernatural forces forcing their way into our dimension. I’m ok with that. Big Enemies and Big Guns means Big Action.

★★★★☆

Blood & Fire (V-Wars #2) ★☆☆☆☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Blood & Fire
Series: V-Wars #2
Editor: Jonathan Maberry
Rating: 1 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 292
Words: 106.5K



Synopsis:

A collection of short stories that continue the look at vampires as they manifest throughout the world and how they and the humans of the world react.

My Thoughts:

A big fat sigh. Some more graphic sex, some more “vampires are just people” and some more of everything I complained about from the first book.

In many ways, it felt like the various authors were writing their own take on vampires without consulting the editor or having any master plan. One author presents them as soulless horrors who have lost all their humanity while another presents them as more human than the humans around them. It was a very mixed message.

Jonathan Maberry, the editor, has his own series called Joe Ledger, that’ll I’ll be checking out. I ran across a short story or two featuring Ledger that I enjoyed, so I’m hoping I’ll have better luck with that.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

V-Wars (V-Wars #1) ★★★✬☆

This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: V-Wars
Series: V-Wars #1
Editor: Jonathan Maberry
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 405
Words: 154.5K



Synopsis:

From Vwars.fandom.com

Conceived of and edited by Bram Stoker Award-winner Jonathan Maberry, V-Wars: is an anthology series of ‘eyewitness accounts’ and ‘frontline reports’ from the vampire apocalypse. After an ancient virus that causes vampire-like symptoms is accidentally released during an Antarctic expedition, humanity must scramble to survive. In this collection of interconnected but unique tales, contributing authors Nancy Holder, Yvonne Navarro, James A. Moore, Gregory Frost, John Everson, Keith R. A. DeCandido, and Scott Nicholson offer gripping accounts of a world spinning towards war and destruction.

My Thoughts:

The “synopsis” was the best I could find without writing my own. A set of authors all write multiple short stories about a character and Maberry, the editor and one of the contributors, weaves the stories all together into one tapestry. So you’ll get a chapter from Maberry about Character X, then a chapter by Navarro about Character A, etc. Most of the characters have no overlap and are written so as to give a broader view of the events happening.

Which basically is that vampires make a huge comeback and how humanity deals with it. This was what I want in a vampire story. Vamps kill humans in one way or another, bloody and violent and it’s all kill or be killed. The thing is, one or two characters are perfectly slotted into the “Woke” side of things and bleat about vamps and it not being their fault and we just have to understand and try to get along with them. They were perfectly done and it took all of my mighty might to appreciate that instead of raging at a fictitional character.

The main reason this is getting only 3.5 instead of 4 is because along with the blood and violence associated with vamps, we also get the sexual side of things. There were too many near explicit scenes for me to be comfortable with. If this trend continues in the next book I’m afraid that it will be the last book in the series I read.

Right at the end there is a character who is revealed as an anti-vamp. She’s a werewolf and transforms in the presence of vampires and kills them. It was awesome!

In many ways this reminded me of the Necroscope series in both good and bad ways. That was another vampire series I had to stop, so we’ll see what happens with this one.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.