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The Dragon Factory (A Joe Ledger novel) by Jonathan Maberry

01/06/2010. Contributed by Gareth D Jones

Buy The Dragon Factory in the USA - or Buy The Dragon Factory in the UK

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pub: St. Martin's Press. 486 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $14.99 (US), $17.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-312-38249-0.

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Genetic manipulation, clones, transgenics, reconstructed DNA from extinct animals, cool gadgets and high-tech computer systems. All ingredients that you may expect to see in an SF novel, but here blended seamlessly into an explosive thriller that pushes the boundaries of science. Like its predecessor 'Patient Zero', this new novel featuring Joe Ledger and the Department of Military Sciences (DMS) looks at what might be possible in this dangerous world and extrapolates it to the worst-case scenario. The result is an extraordinarily complex plot that stretches credulity, but that is written with such verve and raw power that I was caught up and carried right through to the closing paragraph.

Joe Ledger is an interesting character, affected by past traumas, highly trained and lethal, driven by his own sometimes skewed sense of morality. He's not just an action-hero, though there's plenty of that, but an interesting sounding-board for the ethical dilemmas raised throughout the book. He's compared at one point to Jack Bauer from '24' - an 'ends justifies the means' kind of guy and that pretty much sums him up. Plus he has a pet cat. There are several references to popular culture thrown in - including '24', 'Star Wars' and and to the Hollywood treatment in general. Maybe a pre-emptive strike against the day that it's turned into a movie and all sense of reality is lost.

The action takes place over the course of three days, with a doomsday clock ticking down at the beginning of each chapter to keep up the tension. Various flashbacks are thrown in to fill in some background detail, but these are done sparingly enough that they don't detract from the speed or development of the plot.

The canvas is broad, with the action taking place across the US, and set pieces in various parts of Africa, Europe and South America. Those locations are evoked well in their brief appearances, but the main action takes place in big DMS and evil genius headquarters with names like The Deck, The Warehouse and The Hive. There is at least some attempt at explaining where the bad guys managed to recruit so many people to work in their plots of unimaginable evil. This combines genetic manipulation with the usual mixture of fear and or ignorance.

It's an entertaining tidal-wave of a novel that catches you up and pulls you along in its ever-more-dramatic wake. Despite the medley of extraordinary ideas brought together for the story, it all feels chillingly plausible. Jonathan Maberry has done another excellent job of taking us to the edge of tomorrow.

Gareth D Jones

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This book has 339 votes in the sci-fi charts

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