The Dragon Factory (Joe Ledger)
by Jonathan Maberry
Review by Harriet Klausner
St. Martin's Griffin Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780312382490
Date: 02 March 2010 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
There are men who are 200 proof evil for them even the label monster seems benign. Otto Wirths and Cyrus Jakoby are two such beings. Their grandiose master plan is to complete what Hitler and Mengele started with their eugenics program. Cyrus is a genius who has worked for decades to make the world Caucasian and believes he will succeed as he has made genetic diseases contagious such as Tay-Sachs for Jews and Sickle cell for Blacks. There are other diseases aimed at minorities and other third world nations as the pathogens target non-Caucasians.
The only agency that has a chance of preventing the pandemic ethnic cleansing by stopping the triggering of the Extinction Wave is the Department of Military Science (DMS). However they are too busy ending the NSA threat as the latter wants to dismantle DMS and take control of the Mindhunter Computer System that can hack into any program in the world. DMS Agent Joe Ledger learns that the witch-hunt is being coordinated by the Vice President while the President is undergoing surgery. After taking back control of the government, the president harangues the Vice President for being a dupe.
A video sent by a boy in Jakoby's compound makes them aware of the danger to the world starting in just a few days with annihilation of 7/8 of the population within a year. From an Arizona desert to Costa Rica to an island near Bermuda, Joe and his Echo team try to prevent the brilliant psychopaths from destroying the world.
What makes this dark amusing science fiction thriller so frightening is that the nano-technology can soon become science instead of fiction. Like many advances in the sciences, if it is in the hands of egomaniacs what can be used for good can also be used for evil. Thus a customized weapon of pandemic destruction is not implausible.
Jacob's twin children Hecate and Paris are products of genetic engineering who create mythological beings that can be sold to game hunters who want to hunt a unicorn or to become super warriors like Achilles with no heel issue. They also use a dragon that can fly to sell Berserkers (genetically engineered super warriors) to the Chinese who will do anything to get that creature they revere.
The boy, SAM, is a hero who defies his creator (Jakoby) to warn the world at considerable danger to himself. He bravely sends a video to the DMS warning them what will happen knowing he could have stayed the course and been a hero to his "sire", but picked what he felt was the right course of action knowing of the personal risk and in spite of genetic manipulations and intense behavioral conditioning that would have stunned Dr. Skinner.
As Joe and his Echo Team did in Patient Zero, they risk their lives; this time to prevent two megalomaniacs from ethnic cleansing of the world in one viral attack. The more Joe sees what the neo-Nazis created -- hybrid monsters out of mythological legends and the NEW Men who are meant to be a non-violent servile servant class and other specialized creatures -- the more he loses his control until he reaches the point in which he wants to rip Jakoby and Wirth piece by piece.
Readers will think of what it means to be human as the re-engineered SAM seems more human than the monsters who created him. Once again Jonathan Maberry writes a fascinating thriller with a nod to Michael Crichton and HG Wells, as the antagonists move forward with their plot while the protagonists try to prevent their achieving their objective. Over the top, fans will root for Joe (say it ain't so Joe is retiring if he survives) as he battles to save the day in a spectacular read. This author always could tell a great story and in this outstanding thriller he raises the bar on science fiction thrillers.