Jonathan Maberry’s seventh novel in the Joe Ledger Series, Predator One, dials up the fear that turns techno-thriller into techno-terror. Rarely does a novel actually scare me, but this one gave me a sense of dread the likes of which no book ever has.
The story centres on a dying madman and his plan to watch the world burn. In the process, his henchmen and minions undertake to destroy the Department of Military Science (DMS), the organization for whom Joe Ledger works. It begins when a simple model plane, packed with explosives, buzzes the opening ceremonies on opening day of the new baseball season. Things quickly escalate, and in short order, chaos and havoc are unleashed. The villains are soon poised to deliver a crushing blow using the hijacked Air Force One like a drone, from a remote location.
The book plays on fears of autonomously-controlled technology, the rapid expansion of drone use, and what could happen when it all falls into the wrong hands.
As I read Predator One, I found myself questioning whether drone technology is safe in any hands. Within a day of having finished the novel, I read an article in the news about some people who attached fireworks to a drone and made a YouTube video. They now potentially face charges related to the incident. It drove home the point of how easily drone technology could be abused.
Flitting from the present to the past and back again, Maberry builds the reader’s sense of dread, revealing a chronology of events that the DMS has yet to piece together. Using short and succinct chapters, shifting from one group of characters to another, he escalates the tension to keep the reader turning pages.
Maberry also excels at character development and portrayal. I especially noticed this in his last two books, Predator One and Code Zero. If you’ve been along for the entire Joe Ledger experience, you’ll be familiar with the former, villainous henchman, Toys, from earlier novels. I experienced an irresistible urge to compare and contrast Toys with Dr. Pharos, something that I feel was intentional. They are two faces of the same madly spinning coin, but where one is capable of remorse and redemption, the other is beyond it. Like Dr. Pharos, the characters simply known as Boy, and the Gentleman, are equally despicable. Yet, Maberry manages to deftly draw from the reader some empathy for them, even though we can never agree with their motives or actions.
Predator One is Jonathan Maberry’s best book to date. If you like techno-thrillers, and you’re looking for an exciting read that will keep you pondering the story and topic well after you finish the novel, check it out. New to Maberry’s books or the Joe Ledger Series? You can get your feet wet here and enjoy it well enough. You’ll quickly want to go back and start from the beginning with Patient Zero; there’s a world of monsters and mayhem that awaits.