Review: The Dragon Factory (Joe Ledger #2) by Jonathan Maberry [audiobook]

The Dragon Factory_Jonathan Maberry_Ray Porter.jpg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Only two books in and the Joe Ledger series has become a fast favorite of mine. Maberry effortlessly entwines a wide range of genres - military thriller, horror, science fiction, comic book action - to create an incredibly entertaining and compulsively listenable story.

In The Dragon Factory the extinction clock is ticking, counting down to global genocide. Cyrus Jakoby is a brilliant geneticist, his research building off the horrific medical tests conducted by Nazi scientists in World War II, and he has perfected the ultimate means to deliver the Final Solution and offer the white race complete domination over the Earth. It's up to Captain Joe Ledger and Echo Team to stop them, but time is running out and the Department of Military Sciences are caught off guard, stuck playing catch-up after inter-agency politics prompts the NSA to curtail their investigations.

There's a lot going on in The Dragon Factory and Maberry is an expert wrangler, maintaining almost complete control of the story's various plot threads and its multitude of characters. There's enough 24 and James Bond-style shenanigans and to keep listeners thoroughly engaged. The Jakoby family themselves are practically plucked right out of a Bond flick, with the incestuous albino assassin twins of Paris and Hecate conducting their own secret science experiments on a secluded island research base. Not every story thread gets wrapped up sufficiently (but hey, more fodder for book #3!), and some story elements simply fall by the wayside along the way to larger, more intriguing action sequences until they're briefly revisited and fairly neatly and quickly resolved in the book's epilogue, but taken as a whole The Dragon Factory is consistently good and completely captivating.

Published in 2010, The Dragon Factory feels less outlandish today than it may have at the start of this decade, as some of its more seemingly implausible aspects have been fulfilled in reality in only a handful of years. Take, for instance, the subject of white supremacists manipulating and controlling the White House and various government agencies, plotting to destroy the world by poisoning Earth's waters. Certainly this seemed more far-fetched in 2010, but here we are in 2018 with a band of white supremacists in the Oval Office, passing bills allowing our waters to be poisoned by mining waste and appointing the enemies of various government agencies to lead those very same agencies, like the EPA, and withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, and placing immigrant children in concentration camps, and on and on and on. Sadly, the idea of virulently evil racists plotting to destroy the world from within America and through a network of highly-placed and influential government agents isn't quite the extraordinarily imaginative work of fiction it used to be.

Besides the white supremacist bad guys, Maberry injects a metric ton of cutting edge science and plausible-enough horrors stemming from transgenic experimentation to create superhuman animal hybrids to give Ledger and company a savagely violent run for their money. Using the concept of scientific terrorism to fuel a series also gives Maberry a hell of a lot of elasticity in redefining the shape and scope of various horror genre staples. In Patient Zero, Maberry wrote about a militarized unit's response to the zombie plague. Here, we get rogue government operators, assassins, and a bevy of massive, berserker monsters, alongside a spate of other genre concepts.

It's clear Maberry is having a ton of fun writing this stuff, and his enthusiasm is infectious. The Dragon Factory is awful lot of fun to listen to, and Ray Porter delivers another knock-out reading as he firmly settles into these characters and brings them to life (and in more than a few instances death as well). He manages to make each of the characters distinct, utilizing tonal ranges, inflections, and accents to differentiate Maberry's large cast, always making it clear which character is speaking at any given moment. His is a pitch perfect narration, hitting the highs of each action scene and the softer lows of emotional reflection and devastation. Porter further solidifies the simple fact that he is the definitive voice of the Joe Ledger series, and I can't imagine listeners wanting it any other way.

Patient Zero instantly hooked me, roping me into the thick of things and making me a Joe Ledger devotee. The Dragon Factory shows that this series most certainly has legs, and that it can run for miles. While the action is fast and fluid, this is a series that is more than just muscular brawn - it has a hell of a lot of smarts, too, both on and off the page.

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Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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