After Patient Zero I was hooked on the Joe Ledger series. This fresh formula has special operations personnel facing off against a range of clever baddies. However, the last two outings have been a bit over-involved plot wise. And in the case of Assassin's code, a bit too talky. The plots have become burdensome and the pace has slowed. The first entries were akin to Matthew Reilly's fun romps but now have become more like Dan Brown efforts.
But perhaps the most off-putting development is in the character of Joe Ledger himself. For many parts of the book, we are inside Joe's head and he has become a less appealing character. The silly pop culture references and abrasive personality almost has me rooting for the bad guys. This has also happened with Nelson DeMille's grizzled detective, John Corey. Both fictional creations have become so caustic and irreverent that they lose credibility and my interest. Still, I remain a fan overall and will pickup the fifth in the series because Mayberry has now managed to jettison some of the draggy story lines.
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Dragon Factory made Joe out to be super-human (how many times did he kill monsters that had shredded entire strike teams?) and the JAcobis were just annoying. King of Plagues was just all over the place and the whole Nicodimas thing brought nothing to the story: it was distracting and should have been in the Epilogie.
I don't know why but after having the Audiobook for Assassin's Code in my iPod for more than six months I gave it try (probably because it took 1.5 GB of space).
Pleasantly surprised! I liked it very much. The villains are interesting, the whole hidden history is inticing and Joe seems like a human being again. There are some repetitive bits (how many times can Joe fall into the same trap?) which made the book a bit too long, but overall it was a pleasant read/listen. I did find the narator a bit off-putting this time around, though. Putting emphasis in the wrong places, for instance.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Ledger at His BestApril 10 2012
Nickolas X. P. Sharps
- Published on Amazon.com
I'm back in my groove and the review machine is churning now. Shoot, I even have a review of a book for you, days before it is to be released. Bask in my awesome might. This, is Assassin's Code by Jonathan Maberry. This is the fourth book in the Joe Ledger series of novels, a series that I have mad love for. The Joe Ledger series is like Resident Evil without the awful dialogue and shoddy plotting. It's like the hit FOX thriller 24 but with Bond Villains. It's like Larry Correia's Monster Hunter series with a focus on science instead of the supernatural. And Assassin's Code? It's like all that with a dose of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. This is a freaking awesome book. Seriously, if you read my review of The King of Plagues and had any doubts about this series please just do yourself a favor and go buy all four books. Forget about reading this review, just go buy all four books and start reading. Thank me later.
When Iran kidnaps a few American college kids hiking along in the wilderness and accuses them of being spies, who ya gonna call? Joe Ledger and Echo Team. After a successful rescue Joe has an unexpected meeting with one of the vilest scumbags in Iranian politics. Joe is tipped off about the existence of several nuclear bombs planted in Middle Eastern oil fields and asked for help. Rushing against the clock to prevent the detonation of these weapons of mass destruction, Joe finds himself caught in the crossfire of a shadow war. A centuries old conflict, waged by super assassins and brought about by a wicked pact. Can Joe and the DMS prevent nuclear holocaust?
So let me start by saying, WOW. Assassin's Code is the real deal. Easily the best book in the series to date. As much as I love Patient Zero, Assassin's Code is one step above in terms of sheer awesome. Joe seems to finally be getting over his mopey phase. As far as protagonists of thrillers go, Joe Ledger gets top marks for being distinctive. Sure there are plenty of smart mouths in the genre but you will not find another hero with such a fractured psyche. Underneath Joe's wisecracking veneer is a haunted man. Constantly forced to juggle three personalities (the modern man, the cop, and the warrior) Joe must keep his dark side on a leash or lose himself entirely. Assassin's Code introduces a new element to the Joe Ledger formula. Fear. Joe is running scared, still lethal, but truly afraid for what seems like the first time and it is great. Here is a quote that perfectly encapsulates Assassin's Code... '"In my trade, confidence is built on a platform whose legs are made up of good intelligence, continuous training, proper equipment, and field support. I had a sick dog, a dead man's gun, a stolen briefcase, a vampire hunter's stake in my belt, and a cell phone..."
How is the supporting cast doing? Ghost, Joe's K9 companion is awesome as ever. I forgot to mention Ghost during my last review and for that I am greatly ashamed. I love this dog and his relationship with Joe. Maberry does an excellent job of giving Ghost character and after reading Assassin's Code I think everyone will understand why dog is a man's best friend. Unfortunately we don't see as much of Top Sims or Bunny as I would like but we do get more (very vague) glimpses into Church's past. Rudy is far less irritating in this book and for that I am thankful, though he does utter his catchphrase "Dios Mio!" several times at least. As far as new characters go we are introduced to Violin, the mysterious femme fatale and I have to say that I approve. Violin is equal parts young, innocent, intriguing, and utterly deadly. I'm eager to see more of her but I'm hoping against hope that Maberry doesn't rush the romantic interest aspect.
One of the problems I have had with the series so far has been the villains. They tread the line between truly evil and cartoony in their motives. Assassin's Code has the best villains of the series to date, even though some of them are returning faces. I was anxious to see how Maberry would handle vampires. The vampires of Assassin's Code are probably the best use of blood suckers in modern fiction. They just make sense. The myths and legends are present, some true and some false but all are explained in a scientific manner. They are fearsome and brutal and I dig it.
Plot ahoy! So there are a lot of moving pieces to the Assassin's Code and it may seem a bit jumbled at first. Readers will wonder who is who and works for what and is allies with who else. This is okay. Readers aren't the only ones confused. Joe and DMS is too. It's not an accident of bad writing, it is deliberate. Eventually it all comes together rather nicely. The shocking, Dan Brown-esque secret of the book is epic. Truly chilling and world shaking. The pacing is relentless as ever, told from the first person perspective of Joe Ledger and the third person perspective of good guys and baddies. Short chapters make for speed reading and the excitement never lets up.
Lastly we come to action. Maberry knows how to write action. Fight scenes are brutal, visceral, primal. Readers feel every blow, hear every shot fired. Joe's initial run in with a Red Knight had me cringing with every hit. It's beautiful in a chaotic, ugly, grotesque sort of way. I have to wonder though, if it would kill Joe to carry a long gun as well as his side arm. Hardly professional. Minor nitpick aside, you can expect fierce action from Assassin's Code.
So that's it. Great hero. Great plot. Great action. Best in series. Go buy it. Now.
*The magical Goatfairy grants Assassin's Code by Jonathan Maberry, 9 out of 10 cheesewands*
Nick Sharps Goatfairy Review Blog
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Welcome back, JoeMay 29 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
I first caught Jonathan Maberry when I bought Patient Zero on a whim a couple of years back. Basic story was that lunatic terrorists were creating a zombie plague (of sorts), and a hastily-assembled tactical team attempted to take them out. In the course of the book, we were introduced to key characters Joe Ledger (our protagonist), Ghost (his dog), Rudy (his friend and therapist), Echo Team (the hastily-assembled tactical team), DMS (the covert agency responsible for dealing with situations like this), and Mr Church (the boss of DMS).
I've never been a huge fan of the military operation books. Andy McNab does not grace my bookshelves (although I have the utmost respect for him). Zombie books do, although I'm not a hardcore obsessive. So, taking a chance, I tried a new author (something I do every now and then, usually when I've exhausted whichever author currently has me hooked. Most recently, Preston and Child. But that's another story). I was, very pleasantly, surprised. Ledger turned out to be an engaging character, with the sense of (often inappropriate) humour which tickled me. That same sense of humour helps drastically in cutting through what could be a fairly ridiculous situation. Thoroughly recommended.
Anyway, following the initial Patient Zero came Dragon Factory and The King of Plagues. Each with their own new challenges for the developing Echo Team. Relationships and friendships built. Challenges were faced, adversities overcome, and each would make a fine standalone adventure. But, building behind the scenes, a bigger story started to emerge. A shadowy organisation (of Kings) bent on twisting the world for their own purposes. And lurking in the shadows, given nothing more than a throwaway moment, someone else.
Which brings us to Assassin's Code. The theme of each of the books so far has been to take a genetically-modified twist on some classics - zombies, dragons, etc. This time we're treated to vampires, in the name of terrorism. Being only the fourth book in the series, this is still early enough to feel fresh, and gives a nice little take on the vampire mythos. Some familiar characters reappear, to greater and lesser degrees. And there's the usual mix of excitement, adventure, action and suffering. Maberry has a nice touch when writing action and fight scenes - enough technical info to feel interesting, without overloading. Echo Team, at this point, have their core membership and their new members (which seems to be a now standard format in the books), and as with the previous titles, no one is safe. Knowing that Maberry is not afraid to kill off established or new characters lends a nice sense of risk to every scene. (And yes, two of those deaths are brutal and upsetting. I will miss those characters.)
Joe continues to evolve, and from the initial Echo Team encounter spends a good half of the book working in isolation from his teammates, accompanied only by Ghost - although relations between the two end up a little strained. Joe's backstory is expanded on a little more - the history of what led to his psyche fracturing a little, and it's nice to see that he hasn't immediately moved on from loves lost. I find Joe to be a surprisingly engaging lead, rooting for him in action, and more than once laughing at his snarkiness. His interactions with his team, Ghost, adversaries, superiors, and a potential new... partner, continue to delight. The overall story contains vamps, genetics, a race to find nuclear bombs, and a few other things which would be implausible in lesser hands (can you tell that I'm trying to avoid spoilers here?). Which makes for an ideal story.
However, it's the behind-the-scenes action which raises the interest another notch. After the introduction of the Kings earlier, I suspect a pattern will be to see them returning again and again in different incarnations and/or roles. Assassin's Code uses two Kings to varying effect, and brings in another old character (marking their third, and presumably not last, appearance). Beyond them, another figure starts to move into prominence, and in doing so brings a noticeable and not fully-comfortable shift in the tone of the books. Where previously the zombies and the dragons and the vampires had been genetically modified creatures, with at least some basis in nature and/or science, this figure seems to be fully routed in the supernatural. Certainly his actions and abilities seem immediately unexplainable by conventional methods. How this pans out, we'll have to wait and see.
The only other niggle I have is that all four books appear to have taken place in the space of a year. That's a tough year. And I'm not really sure that Joe and his team actually have any time to recover - mentally, emotionally, physically. Other than that, it's a hell of a book. Thoroughly enjoyable - accessible to people new to the series, but you'll benefit far more from having read the first three.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
What was this series missing? VampiresJuly 17 2012
Daniel O. Buchholz
- Published on Amazon.com
Zombies, werewolves, secret societies (ala Illuminate), super-virus's and even a dragon (all of course with a mostly super-science edge, not paranormal). So the one obvious missing item in our paranormal ecology is vampires, so this book deals it out in spades. As I have read the books in this series the one thing I kept thinking is that the only person who seems to be having a worse day would have been Jack Bauer from the TV series 24. Then I remember the first line above and I am going to have to have to declare that Joe is definitely having a worse time that Jack.
Assassin's Code kept me alive, as I listened to it on a long drive where I was quite tired, but there was no way that I was going to fall asleep and miss what happened next. As it often happens in this series it starts of strong and keeps up the action (with one exception, the interludes to the historical events that provide some of the back story on the organizations) to the explosive crescendo at the end.
Joe, Ghost and Echo Team are in Iran, rescuing some wayward hikers that have been kidnapped by the Iranian's. On their way out they Joe is isolated and forced, by a mysterious sniper team, to meet with the head of Iran's Intelligence organization who provides some specific information (and some generic background stuff) about 7 (big, multi-megaton) nuclear weapons that are being staged around the Middle East as well as possibly in the US.
So without rest Joe and the DMS are thrown into a desperate search to find and disarm those weapons. Along the way we run into the Red Order (a secret order of Vampire Assassin's), a secret anti-vampire organization and even the Holy Inquisition. It even incorporates one of the historical question marks that have confounded scholars for decades, the Voynich Manuscript. This really is some great fun and anytime you stop for that book reading interruption thing called life you feel the twitchy need to get back to it ASAP.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Maberry's Code: Vampires are ViciousMay 31 2012
R. B. Winning
- Published on Amazon.com
I think I have written this before but; there are no charming, sexy, Twilight-like vampires in John Maberry narratives. Instead what we get is nasty, hell-bent demons, who keep women in cells and use them as breeding stock to propogate their race.
These are the vampires, originally sanctioned by the world's two most prominent warring religions, that Joe Ledger and the DMS encounter in Assasin's Code. The DMS -Department of Military Science- is a Special Ops team whose task it is to eliminate those threats that are so heinous that thy must remain secret. In Code, the action begins with Ledger and his team rescuing three twenty-something hikers who are being held in Iran. Sound familiar? Of course it does. What we, the public don't know however, is that after successfully freeing the three hikers, Ledger encounters an old nemesis who reveals that another, unrelated plot is in the works. Seven stolen nukes are planted at seven sites worldwide and one of those sites is apparently an oil rig off the coast of Louisianna.
Sounds like typical Special-Ops plot twist huh? No such thing. You see what Ledger uncovers is a harbinger named Grigor who leads an insurgent group of vampires. These vampires, immune to radiation, could conceivably survive nuclear armagedon, rise up and take over the world. All Grigor and his vampire terrorists are waiting for are the detonation codes. Along the way, Ledger is helped by a sexy near-vampire assasin who is a member of an all women's group of assasins sworn to defeat the nasty vampires who raped them.
The plot line gets a little complicated what with various bad guys using and betraying each other, but the sequences of violence are really gripping. In addition, Maberry, unlike most writers of this kind of fiction, draws out really complete, conflicted, and thoughful characters. These are characters that the reader and the villians in the novel can really sink their teeth into.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Great Summer Thriller!April 10 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
Assassin's Code: A Joe Leger Novel is a fast-paced thriller with a slightly paranormal edge. Joe Ledger is an engaging hero. He is tough, but not superhuman, with a wise-cracking sense of humor, a split personality and a scarred pysche. Along with the team Joe commands is his dog, Ghost. I worried that the dog would either be a throwaway character or would otherwise be distracting. Instead, Ghost was a solid character in his own right, and an effective foil for Joe in what might otherwise be interior monologues.
Assassin's Code is not a conventional thriller, it is a little over the top and a bit fantastical. But in a tremendously entertaining way. The plot involves stolen nukes, ancient shadowy organizations that date back to the Crusades, and vampires. Put it all together and you wind up with a page-turning thriller that holds your attention from beginning to end and leaves you wanting more. Jonathan Maberry is a skilled writer with a great imagination. I wasn't even finished reading this book before I'd ordered more books in the series.
This was my first time reading this author and this series. Reading the earlier books may have given me a deeper appreciation of the characters, but it read fine as a stand alone book. Assassin's Code is great fun and everything you expect in an action adventure thriller. Highly recommended. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book from netgalley.