Top critical review
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From Potentially Good To Ridiculous
on 5 June 2011
I bought all the books in this trilogy (so far) together, based on the reviews here.
'Patient Zero', even with the seriously flawed science, psychology, history, geography, and US-centric world view, was good fun. There was also a lot of potential. Sadly wasted.
'The Dragon Factory' introduced the authors racism, tactical ignorance, and more selective history.
With 'The King of Plagues', the whole thing turned into an updated version of Flash Gordon V Ming the Mercilesses' (that's a US plural). It's fairly obvious that the 'research' the author claims to have done consisted of trawling the craziest of Conspiracy Theory websites, Google Earth, and US Grade School geography books, in addition to the faults seen in the first two books.
To list all the mistakes would take too long, so here are a few random examples :
Scotland is NOT a part of England, and if an airborne pathogen escaped from Fair Isle, it would not make landfall in England first. Assuming that the winds are southerly, there is a country called Scotland (pop 5.2 million) in the way. It has a land mass not far short of England's.
How could the author miss it ??
I don't believe for one moment that Maberry simply writes off 5.2 million people as an irrelevance, but most Americans do think that England is another name for Britain, and this is still being taught in US schools.
Back to Fair Isle. To the east we have mainland Europe, to the west/north - Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Nova Scotia etc.
The recent Icelandic dust clouds are a perfect example of what would actually happen.
'The Prince of England' ? Enough said.
What is a typical 'British accent' ? Geordie ? Scouse ? Janner ? West Wales ? Doric ?
'British' men do NOT 'typically' wear 'bowler hats and pinstriped suits', although a handful in London's Square Mile might.
There is no such thing as a 'Scottish city burr'. Which city ? - Glasgow ? Inverness ? Edinburgh ? Aberdeen ?
No genuine, highly qualified, modern day theologian/archaeologist/historian/academic considers that the stories in the Old Testament are historical fact. Indeed, most dismiss the 'history' of the New Testament too. Unless, of course, they are fundamentalist creationist Pastors who obtained their PhD's from one of the dozens of US-based non-accredited 'Degree Mills' by post. One enterprising British student obtained one for his cat a couple of years ago. In addition, on every page we have 'Good God', 'Oh my God', 'Holy Jesus', 'Jesus on the Cross' and more similar 'Good Guy' statements. The 'Bad Guys' are all going to 'Hell', and people are praying and lighting candles all over the place. It became very tedious, added nothing to the narrative, but may have shed some light on the author's personality.
Is Maberry a Right Wing Conservative Christian ? Add the names of the Good Guys - Joseph - 'Amazing' Grace - Church/Deacon etc, then on this evidence, yes, I suspect he is. These people also believe that Europe and the rest of the world is a socialist, immoral, 'Satanic' place, with the USA a lighthouse of decency and 'Christian' morality. A watered-down 'Bring on Armageddon' Rawles-type perhaps ?
Being a 6'4" muscle-bound US serviceman (any branch) does not make you 'fitter' than others, as the author suggests. It just makes you more intimidating. I looked at some of my old photos. Photos of a bunch of young men who had completed what is now recognised as the hardest military training on the planet. Where the fitness, strength, stamina, and endurance levels achieved are equal to those of international athletes. They all looked quite normal, and it's not surprising that what we achieved in the Falklands was described by the US military leaders as 'impossible', because in the US military, it is/was. I/We also worked closely with some of our US cousins (from those 'supermen' units the author mentions often), and to be honest, they were/are very poor. Little stamina, impatient, poor endurance rating, tactically naiive, sloppy, and noisy. They weren't very bright either. We see this in these books - massive firepower and loud 'hoohah's, but not much else. It's fantasy comic book stuff, but Americans love and believe it.
The author has a problem with science and scientists. Dr Hu (who just happens to be Chinese) has no conscience or morals, and he's a good guy. No scientist I know has that kind of psychological profile. They are as loving, caring, and compassionate as anyone else. If you want genuine sociopaths, look to US/world-wide multinationals and some of their millionaire/billionaire CEO's. Power hungry, domineering, controlling, very smart, and driven by greed.
95% of the baddies are Spanish, German, British, South African, Korean, Arab (of course), Chinese, even Australian, but definitely NOT American. Think of Hollywood.
But we have to remember these books are written for the US market, where 60 million people believe that the Universe was created 6,000 years ago by .... magic, and even leading politicians think that humans walked with dinosaurs, 3,000 years ago ! Be afraid. Be very afraid. They also have the planets biggest and most advanced military machine.
The plots were also very predictable, and the identity of the 'King of Fear' became obvious early in the narrative (think of the report that 'O'Tree' had compiled and given to Grace. Who was very upset ?).
True, in this offering, we see Maberry introducing two Muslim 'good guys' to the team, but it looks like they have been added as an afterthought (Rawles again). Their part in the story could be removed entirely and nothing would change. Very much like a 'Some of my best friends are ....' statement.
Other US authors have shown what's possible in this genre. They expand on existing science and technology without tuning it into childish fantasy (think of Birmingham's World War 2.1 series and others). They also recognise that there are as many American power hungry, religious fundamentalist sociopaths (possibly more) as anywhere else. They write about them.
Maberry doesn't. He simply ignores the reality.
There will be another in the series, that's obvious. Will I buy it ? Probably. Why ? Because jingoistic US authors need to be challenged by those of us who really CAN see the 'Big Picture', and factual inaccuracies must be exposed, no matter where they come from, or how unpalatable they are to many readers.
I predict the the next offering will feature aliens. Shape-shifting reptiles who include the Royal Family, influential celebrities, and non US political and business leaders. They live some of the time underground in the Arctic Tundra, and their HQ is inside our hollow moon (discovered in the 70's, but kept quiet). Bigfoot is their Supreme Leader.
Millions of Americans already believe this, and claim that Obama, as well as being the Anti-Christ, is a Muslim, a lizard, and even worse, NOT American !.
Finally, and personally, in 'The Dragon Factory' we see Joseph Mengele introduced as a cornerstone of the plot. Yet there is no mention of the fact that he and over 20,000 other fugitive war criminals, including Stangl, Brunner, Eichmann, and Pavelic, escaped to South America (where they were feted as heroes by politicians and leading churchmen alike) via the Vatican sponsored, controlled, and organised 'Rat Lines'. This has now been established as historical fact (See 'Bishop Hudal' or simply Google 'Rat Lines' for more information).
Just because the truth often hurts doesn't mean we should avoid it, and those facts, crazy as they may sound, would have been a very interesting sub plot. The author must have known. He included factual information about US Government involvement (and the Brits weren't innocent !), and it's impossible to read about the US/UK part without learning about the (much larger) Vatican involvement.