I’ve been a fan of Jonathan Maberry’s since I read the novel that kicked off his series focusing on Joe Ledger. The novel was ‘Patient Zero’ and it was the best zombie-fiction I’d read – believable science, an insane pace (his are the finish-in-one-day-because-you-can’t-put-it-down kind of novels), incredible action sequences and very real human reactions to insane situations.
With ‘Dead of Night’ I knew I’d be getting a novel with a more intense zombie-focus, but what I wasn’t suspecting was an even more plausible scientific explanation for zombies – seriously, I hope none of the psychotic, mad scientists of the world read this novel, because we might just be in trouble. The kind of trouble that’ll make the I’ll-eat-your-face-off-because-I’m-tripping-on-Bath-Salts incident look like a grade-school disagreement!
‘Dead of Night’ opens unlike any other zombie novel – with seven words. That’s it – the entirety of the first chapter. It’s not only an excellent hook –the first Time I read it I thought, “Uh, okay, that’s interesting,” and then immediately turned the page. This is par for the course when you’re reading something by Jonathan Maberry – he hooks you from the get-go.
The novel then kicks off in earnest, giving us a hint of just what kind of zombies we’ll be dealing with, introducing the radio broadcasts that appear throughout the novel (obviously a broadcast that is read, not heard) and then we meet Desdemona Fox, one of the coolest and emotionally screwed characters I’ve ever met in zombie fiction. She’s not perfect but she’s a consummate hard-ass, and she makes (and has made) mistakes. She’s the kind of woman who isn’t scared to use people even as they use her, and she definitely doesn’t edit her mouth once it gets going. Her partner, JT Hammond, is much more serious and focused, and can’t help showing how much he cares for Des. He’s a kind of father-figure, though Des would put him on the ground if he ever tried it in an overt manner. They’ve got a great friendship and respect each other, and it’s this bond that helps them most when the zombies hit the fan – which happens quickly!
When the mayhem and chaos begins it doesn’t let up, but Jonathan manages to keep the reader hooked -not only with brutally intense gun-fights, desperate escapes and the kind of gore Hollywood has no idea how to shoot properly, but also with moments of hilarious character-interaction, tactical small-town planning in terms of how civilians and military act against this incredibly dangerous threat, and the science-aspect I mentioned earlier.
The zombies in ‘Dead of Night’ have many things in common with the zombies we’re used to nowadays –unrelenting hunger, unrelenting movement and single-mindedness, etc.- but it’s how Jonathan makes them different that really makes the story stand out – especially the ‘patient zero’ of this catastrophe; you’ve never met a zombie like this one!
There are many other characters that take the stage in ‘Dead of Night’, most notably a duo that are constantly updating blogs and twitter accounts, and even though the focus remains on Des and JT Jonathan gives page-time to just about everyone who has a role to play in the tale. This serves to give the reader that full experience of reading a tale populated with enough characters to balance the fast-paced plot – sometimes novels sacrifice one in service to the other, but definitely not in this case. Also, the Horror-aspect of this novel is, in many places, unsettling and creepy – these aren’t the kind of zombies you laugh at or can run circles around.
All in all, ‘Dead of Night’ is one of the best zombie novels I’ve read – it has an unrelenting pace, rapid-fire plot, science that will have readers talking about and discussing the tale, characters that leap off the page and slap you swollen-jawed, and truly creepy moments with zombies that you haven’t truly encountered before – these guys could probably eat World War Z’s zombies for, er, dinner.
Expect a ‘Dead of Night’ movie soon! Check out the announcement here – and Jonathan has finished the first draft of the sequel, ‘Fall of Night’.