Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Patient Zero (2009)

     Before I spent two weeks reading books on the do's and don'ts of writing fiction, I would have merely found Jonathan Maberry's Patient Zero (2009) to be tiresome and poorly written.  Having read those books, however, I can point to Maberry's novel as a prime example of bad writing in nearly every form, though not always to a disastrous level.  Not always, but when Maberry insists on having the least likeable protagonist – ever – narrate about ¾ of the story, which only made me wish that somebody would kill that character so that the middle-of-the-road zombie-plague story could go on without me hating the story because of who was telling it.
     Why have most of the novel narrated in the first person while the rest is told in a more traditional third person?  Maybe because Maberry doesn't believe in writing conventions, and maybe because he thought it  clever.  Whatever his reasoning, it is largely an effort that shouldn't have been made. 
     The bigger question should have been why is the protagonist, Joe Ledger, the best at everything?  He is the smartest cop (though he does no kind of police-like investigations – maybe Maberry didn't want to do the research into finding out how that worked), the best shot (better than the Delta Force guys), the best Martial Artist (even though he doesn't understand how the character's form works), the best judge of character, the guys who makes all of the connections with little help (other than to have people to supply expository information) from the other characters, and, of course, he has the biggest cock in the world.  That last bit may be an exaggeration, but Maberry does let the reader know that Ledger has a big dick, and the character knows it, too.
     Overlong, full of points that go nowhere (a bad guy disfigures his face for seemingly no reason, just as this characters need to be where he disfigured his face ends up being ridiculous because he could have gotten from A to C without every needing to go to B, and B is never explored other than to have the character cut a huge gash in his face), and celebrating an adolescent's view of ultra-masculinity, Patient Zero is a prime example of a book to avoid.  That is disappointing, because the basic story is one that would make a fine supernatural (though Maberry makes it a medical issue) thriller if the author and his main character didn't get in the way.  If scenes were not consistently indescribable or characters perpetually at a loss for words, I wouldn't be convinced that Maberry is a bad writer (I may have just thought that this one book was poorly written).
     Whatever the cause for the many faults in this book, they are more than enough for me to warn everyone I can to stay away from it.  It is beyond bad.  It is a waste of time.

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