Kill Switch by Jonathan Maberry
St. Martin’s Griffin (April 2016)
If I laid out the entire plot of Kill Switch, the eighth book in Jonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series, it would read like a synopsis of four or five books in two or three different genres. Most times, that would be a recipe for disaster, but Maberry somehow keeps all the balls in the air for over 500 pages, resulting in a satisfying thrill ride of a book.
Because I feel like I should offer some kind of synopsis, I’ll boil it down like so: Ledger and his crack team of operatives uncover a massive machine of mysterious intent at a remote military base in Antarctica – i.e., another day at the office for these guys. But things begin to diverge far from the norm as a hidden city and some giant penguin-like creatures come into play. Agents throughout the Department of Military Sciences (Ledger’s home turf), as well as agents of the CIA, FBI and other organizations, begin blowing assignments and, in some cases, committing outright acts of betrayal and treason. Strange power outtages in major American cities cause confusion and result in tragedy. Carefully constructed security measures are breached, allowing digital information and dangerous laboratory specimens to fall into the wrong hands. We learn that H.P. Lovecraft’s stories may be more fact than fiction. Meanwhile, a new prophet is emerging in the Middle East, and a child genius who may not be entirely human is constructing something called a God Machine.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is as succinct as I can be.
I don’t know how he did it, but Maberry somehow takes this alphabet soup of genre tropes and spins a relentless page-turner of a story. Even with all of the necessary exposition it takes to connect the multitude of dots in Kill Switch, I never felt the story drag. Even with all the time Maberry takes to detail the weaponry at play or the politics in motion, the story never loses momentum. Even a sequence near the end, which clarifies and strengthens Ledger’s connections to much of Maberry’s other work (the Rot & Ruin series, the Dead of Night/Fall of Night zombie duo, etc.), avoids feeling tacked on by putting an exclamation point on the impact Kill Switch‘s events have on the embattled soldier.
The Joe Ledger series is pure pulp, and Maberry proves here that he’s a master craftsman when it comes to this distinct style of literary mayhem. Don’t let the hefty page count or the sheer volume of ingredients intimidate you – Maberry’s ultimate goal is to tell a good story, and that’s exactly what he’s done.