CBR #40 – Mortar Kombat

Joe Ledger: Special Ops by Jonathan Maberry

For fun, pop-science-y action reads, you cannot beat Jonathan Maberry.  My brother recommended Patient Zero to me, and I fucking loved it and gobbled up all the subsequent Joe Ledger books.  I haven’t yet gotten to Benny Imura, because I’m waiting to not be fucking tired of zombies anymore, but I FUCKING LOVED the Pine Deep trilogy.  In no small part because it’s set in a small town in Bucks County.  And it’s about a haunted hayride.  If you ever get the chance, jump the fuck on those novels.  They will melt your fucking face.

Special Ops is a collection of all the short stories that take place in between the Joe Ledger novels.  Ledger is an operative for the DMS – Department of Military Sciences – a super-secret government organization that no-one can know of.  They tend to battle against terrorists bent on releasing viruses or doing gene manipulation.  Solid, pulpy action, with fun characters and neat action.  Maberry toes the line between Clancy and Romero, or probably more fair would be Ludlum and Clive Barker.  A fun cross between science and supernatural.

These are the little tales again that you’d find in various collections — apertifs for the larger novels.  Most of the stories cover adventures between the larger tales, kind of giving a little bit of intriguing backstory. But mostly, they’re fun diversions.  Again, I gave it three stars, but it’s three and a half and probably to four.  My beef was that some of the stories felt REALLY repetitive.  Ledger fights super-soldiers or genetic aberrations.  Violin, his sometime lover/supernatural assassin, comes and helps.  Or Church stops him from going to an Orioles game where they’ll kick the fuck out of the Phillies, to go after something peripheral from the main novels.  If these were my first introductions to Ledger, I’d read Maberry, and that’s what they were designed for.  But they were also designed as buffer/teasers between novels, and for you to have read the previous novels.  So it works against.

Still, the stories are fucking fun.  There’s one where a naked, tortured Ledger goes fucking Jason Bourne on super-soldiers with the contents of a law office.  It becomes a super bloody Jackie Channing of baddies.  And then there’s the tale where Echo Team goes to Pine Deep and gets involved with the aftermath of the Pine Deep trilogy, Material Witness, which was a particular favorite.  God, I loved that cross-over.  It’s exactly what you want to give fans of your books.

In the additional materials, Maberry talks of another Pine Deep pairing in a future short as well as one where Echo Team takes on Cthulhu.  So, I’ll keep reading Maberry.  He’s worth it, and again, I’m jones to jump right into Predator One, the latest Joe Ledger full novel.


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