Captain Joe Ledger is on vacation. How long do you think that will last, given the nature of Joe’s job? Turns out, not very long at all. Per orders from Mr. Church, Joe and his DMS team are knocking on the door of Shelton Aeronautics in Wolf Trap, Virginia. Joe is hoping that this will be easy. In and out. Unfortunately, it’s the complete opposite. There’s been a massacre at Shelton Aeronautics, and the men they come in contact with are…different, and the hand held weapons they carry can cause major damage with just a click. That whole incident was enough to ruin Joe’s day, but when he finds out the president has gone missing, things all of a sudden take on a whole new, and terrifying dimension. Joe and the DMS team are eager to help, but the underhanded Vice President William Collins has stepped up to acting president, and he’s out to shut down Joe and the DMS in any way possible. Meanwhile, a video comes to light showing the president urging them to find something called the Majestic Black Book. The president going missing is only the latest in odd occurrences around the world, however, and when a prototype US stealth fighter is shot out of the sky at a demonstration (which should be impossible), it becomes increasingly clear that something may be at work that’s not of this world.
Extinction Machine is the fifth novel in the Joe Ledger series, and if you’ve been keeping up, you probably expect things like cool gadgets, spectacular fight scenes, government conspiracies, and since Joe has already dealt with vampires and zombies, it’s only fitting that aliens be on the menu too, yes? If you tend to groan when you see stuff about UFOs and aliens, never fear, Maberry handles this subject as he does all others, with exhaustive research and a very intelligent take that had me riveted. I adore Joe and his crew, and although I was delighted to see a little bit of sumthin’ sumthin’ between Joe and Violin (beautiful, intelligent, deadly), it’s immediately obvious that Joe is smitten when he meets Junie Flynn, a woman who podcasts, speaks, and writes about aliens and may have a direct line to the Majestic Black Book. Joe actually gets kind of sappy when it comes to Junie, and feels an immediate connection to her that may seem unlikely, but the man’s been through a lot. He deserves some happiness.
Now, this series is never limited to one villain, and Extinction Machine is no exception, but there’s one in particular, Erasmus Tull, that especially intrigued me. He has a background with Mr. Church and he may or may not be human, but one thing is for sure, he’s a killing machine, and his actions are shocking, but his desire to be like normal people, to discover that “missing” intangible thing that would make him less of a monster, is rather tragic, and he’s certainly one of the most compelling villains that Jonathan Maberry has introduced thus far.
Extinction Machine follows the same format as previous novels: short, action packed chapters, switching between Joe, Mr. Church, and various other players. I personally enjoy this because I can read snippets at a time and not feel like I’ve left myself hanging if I have to put the book down. Trust me, these books are the ones where you want to read “just one more chapter.” There’s a ton going on in Extinction Machine, as in the other novels, but I love that about this series. Maberry manages some pretty complex story lines while constantly engaging his readers, and the short chapter format serves the narrative perfectly and keeps a sense of urgency simmering right at the surface. It doesn’t hurt that it’s made very clear early on that a countdown is in effect, and there’s very limited time left before something catastrophic will happen.
Five books in, and I’m still hooked on Joe. Yes, Joe’s tough and you can almost smell the testosterone, but he’s got a heart as big as some of the conspiracies that the DMS deals with. There’s always a bit of self-doubt within him as he fights the killer within, and tries desperately not to fall so deeply into the dark, that he can’t return. He tirelessly fights the good fight, and if he can come back with his soul intact, so much the better. I continue to thoroughly enjoy the over-the-top, relentlessly clever, roller coaster madness that is the Joe Ledger series, and I consider it the best kind of escapism. I’ll follow Joe anywhere!...more
Cas is still reeling from the events of Anna Dressed in Blood, and the sacrifice that Anna made in order to save Cas and his friends. It’s the end of the school year, and he should be having fun with end of year events with his friends, but that’s kind of hard when he keeps seeing Anna everywhere he goes. Anna with blood running out of her mouth. Anna with cuts that open and close all over her body. The list goes on, and the visions don’t seem to be going away. If anything, they’re getting stronger, and he knows it’s not his imagination, because his ghost killing athame is responding every time he sees Anna. Cas becomes convinced that Anna is in some sort of hell, along with the Obeahman, and he must get her out. His best friend (and mind reader) Thomas, is firmly on his side, and willing to help, but Carmel seems to be drawing away, which worries Cas. He’s determined to save Anna at any cost though, even if it means going to Hell to do it. Turns out his athame may be connected to his friend Gideon, something called The Order of the Black Dagger, and may also be a doorway that can be used to get to Anna. It’s a very dangerous proposition, and Cas’ mom, in spite of her own knowledge of the arcane, is afraid he may be in over his head.
Cas decides to fly to London with Thomas and confront Gideon, the man he hasn’t seen since he was four, but who has been like a grandfather to him, about the picture that was sent from his address, but with different handwriting. Soon he finds out that there is indeed an Order of the Black Dagger, and they do not approve of Cas’s use of the athame. Gideon also has someone staying with him: a girl named Jestine who may have something to do with the Order, and who can definitely handle herself in a fight. Cas is still determined to save Anna, though, but at what cost? And they may just have to ask the Order for their help. What follows is a journey through the Scottish Highlands to the lair of the Order, but it’s not easy going. They’ll have to navigate a beautiful forest where people go to die (this scene will raise the little hairs on the back of your neck), and Cas still doesn’t know what price he’ll have to pay for the Order’s help.
I really enjoyed Girl of Nightmares, but it didn’t knock my socks off like Anna Dressed in Blood. However, this isn’t unusual in a second book of a series. This one had more subtle horror then the first, and that’s ok! Like I said, the trip through the forest was terrifying, and there’s a scene at the Tower of London that is deliciously creepy. That’s what the author is best at: providing deliciously creepy thrills, and that talent is on fine display here. Cas’s journey to save Anna is a fascinating one, and what makes it tragic is, in spite of his hopes, would he really be able to bring Anna back to the living world, and forge some sort of relationship? First and foremost is saving her from eternal torment, and Ms. Blake definitely brings the scary in the final scenes of the book. You’ll have a great time getting there, and my love of Cas and his friends certainly hasn’t waned. There is a bit of gore, so older teens would be fine with this one, and the crossover (adult) appeal is still huge. I was thrilled at the author’s choice to use London as her backdrop, and I’m very excited to see where the author takes the series after this!...more
Ashley Parker is attending college in the small town of Redwood Grove and dating a pleasant enough guy. Life isn’t too bad, so when she and her boyfriend are attacked by shambling, rotting corpses one night while on a date, and said boyfriend runs away and leaves her for dead, things suddenly take a turn for the worse. That’s an understatement. Ashley is bitten, but instead of turning into one of the zombie horde, she fights off the virus, and comes out of it stronger, faster, and…immune. After being nursed back to health by a super-secret military organization, they ask her to join an elite group of fighters called the Wild Cards, which are made up of civilians that are immune to the virus, just like Ashley. She knows something has to be done to save as many survivors as necessary, so agrees to join the group. Little does she know how terrifying things are about to become…
Author Dana Fredsti has a background that folks like me will totally geek out about. We’re talking stuff like sword-fighting on the set of Army of Darkness, guys, and it shows in Plague Town. The lady knows her weapons (especially those of the bladed variety), and isn’t afraid to take Ashley to new heights of ass-kicking. Plus, she gave her heroine a name that can be shortened to Ash…yeah, you know you like it. Ashley Parker is a pretty normal chick with a smart mouth that just won’t quit. She’s a lot smarter than your average girl, though, and the pop culture references come hard and fast. More geeking out, of the awesome kind. The author does a wonderful job of balancing the serious, the funny, and the downright grotesque, creating a zom novel that will please fans of Jonathan Maberry’s Dead of Night, etc.
Ashley takes on her new role with chutzpah and more than an ounce of bravery and her attraction to her handsome and enigmatic instructor Gabriel isn’t without drama, and adds a nice little dash of romance to the story. Ms. Fredsti also manages to throw in some interesting twists to the zombie virus that will have those little hairs on the back of your neck standing on end. I chuckled, I cringed, and I cheered (quietly, so as not to disturb the rest of the house), as Ashley and her rather ragtag (and somewhat charming) band of zombie warriors fight the hordes and rescued survivors. If you love zombies, strong, sarcastic heroines with heart, and fight scenes that will knock your socks off, you’ll devour Plague Town!...more