Publishers: St. Martins Griffin
Publication Date – 30 October 2018
From horror legend Jonathan Maberry comes the 10th book in his weird-science based horror, thriller, science fiction Joe Ledger series, which takes the reader on a wild joyride through a world gone mad in this five-star adventure.
I have to admit that Maberry is not an author that I have had much experience with before. The only work of his I have previously read was a fun short story that was featured in a volume of zombie short stories he jointly edited with George A. Romero in 2017 that I previously reviewed here. However, I am extremely happy that I decided to check out this latest book as it exposed me to this incredible series, which I enjoyed immensely. I can think of no greater praise for this novel then to say that upon finishing it, I immediately dropped everything and started reading the first book in the series, Patient Zero, which I will be reviewing in the next few weeks as part of my Throwback Thursday series.
I chose to listen to Deep Silence on audiobook rather than read a physical copy. The audiobook format of this book is just under 16½ hours long and is narrated by Ray Porter, who has worked on several other books in the series.
In this latest book, a Russian splinter group have developed a powerful weapon with pieces of alien crystal seeded throughout the planet. This new weapon can cause devastating earthquakes on a level never before seen and has the potential to destroy the entirety of the United States. The weapon also has a chilling side effect: it causes people around the epicentre of the quake to engage in violent acts of madness, from suicide to ferocious attacks on others. The first attack targets Washington, with mass violence erupting around the Capitol building.
America’s only hope may be the top-secret rapid response organisation, the Department of Military Sciences (DMS). For years, the DMS has been the only line of defence against the insane science America’s enemies are utilising and developing in this new age of wonders. From deadly diseases, ancient forbidden technologies, extreme acts of genetic manipulation, the latest forms of cyber and electronic attack, and even weaponised zombies, the DMS, led in the field by Captain Joe Ledger, has managed to stop all these threats and more. Utilising the latest military and espionage equipment and the best and brightest soldiers and scientists America has to offer, the DMS operates just outside the government and can go further than any other agency can.
However, while the DMS attempts to combat this latest threat, they find themselves hindered by a megalomaniac President whose stupidity and paranoia make him more afraid of the DMS than the group unleashing earthquakes across his country. As Joe and his team attempt to hunt down the origins of this attack they must contend not only with a dangerous Russian force but also with agents of their own Government and devices that can drive even the most dedicated DMS agent insane. But as the Russians attempt to force the eruption of the Yellowstone caldera, the greatest threat may come from the creatures the technology was stolen from.
Deep Silence is the 10th book in Maberry’s Joe Ledger series, which started in 2009 with Patient Zero. Maberry has been writing since 2006, with his debut book Ghost Road Blues forming the first book in the Pine Deep Trilogy. Since then, Maberry has written a huge number of books, most of which have a horror theme or focus. Apart from his Joe Ledger series, Maberry is probably best known for his Rot & Ruin series, a young adult zombie apocalypse series. Aside from his fictional novels, Maberry has also written several comics for Marvel as well of a number of non-fiction books, which tend to focus on Maberry’s passions for martial arts and the supernatural.
Deep Silence is an exceptional book that combines together a number of genres, including science fiction, thriller, horror, military fiction and spy thrillers into one very captivating narrative. The end result is a non-stop thrill ride that perfectly utilises the series’s bizarre nature and advanced science to create a devastating threat and a larger-than-life protagonist to face it. There are so many amazing elements to this book, from its continuation of an enjoyable series, to the very weird elements that come into play, to the excellent writing style and enjoyable characters. Once I started reading this book I just could not stop, and it is easily one of my favourite books of this year.
From what I understand, the Joe Ledger series started off mostly focusing on the mad sciences that humans are able to create and use against each other. However, in recent books, the series has taken on a more Lovecraftian vibe, with unknown aliens, space demons and incredibly insane technology. Deep Silence in particular seems to relate back to several of these previous alien technology based novels, as the devices, technology and motives that the book’s antagonists utilise are closely related to the adventures that occurred in previous books. That being said, there is still the continuous use of more advanced human technologies utilised by many of the book’s characters, especially those working for the DMS. All the crazy gadgets that they use are pretty impressive, but none (with one or two major exceptions) are outside the realm of possibility and reflect technologies that could potentially exist. Indeed, in the introduction to Patient Zero, Maberry actually confirms that most of the technology he describes in his books is currently used or could soon be used by intelligence organisations around the world today.
One of the challenges of coming into a series late is the reader’s lack of knowledge about the universe’s background information, lore and the development of its main characters and the extent of their relationships. Maberry does an incredible job bridging this gap throughout Deep Silence, providing the reader with descriptions of previous events, recaps of character descriptions and history and making use of a number of references to previous missions and adventures captured in the other books in the Joe Ledger series. There are also a number of scenes that appeared to be callbacks to previous books, although the author was able to describe the pertinent details of these events. As a result, I was never lost at any point and really appreciated the recaps and detailed descriptions the book’s various point-of-view characters provided throughout the novel. It also made me very curious about some of the previous books in the franchise, and I am now very interested in checking out some of these insane and fun-sounding adventures. As a result, Deep Silence is an excellent book if you want to get an idea of what the Joe Ledger series is all about. At the same time, established fans of this long-running series will be interested to see the significant changes that occur to the book’s main characters, as well as the scenes detailing where the series will potentially be going in the future.
One of the things that I really enjoyed about Deep Silence was the way that Maberry presents the book’s narrative from multiple perspectives and across a range of different time periods. Because of this, the reader is given a far wider view of the overall narrative. Not only do they get to see the protagonists attempting to investigate and stop what is going on, but they get to see the antagonists coming up with their plans, discovering and researching their doomsday device over a period of years and then implementing their mission. This also allows the reader to get a far deeper understanding of the antagonist’s objectives and mindscapes in committing these acts and what it costs them mentally and emotionally. Nearly all the fun and eccentric characters working in the DMS get a few scenes told from their point of view. This provides the reader with some high level, but easy to follow, scientific discussions, hacking sequences and the utilisation of incredibly exciting-sounding advanced espionage technology. There is also a focus within Deep Silence of the politics around and behind the DMS, and how the organisation’s leader, the mysterious Mr Church (who is totally an alien, right?), deals with these situations.
While all of the other point-of-view characters are entertaining and it is intriguing to view their sides of the story, the best character has to be the series’s main protagonist, Joe Ledger. Ledger is the extremely dangerous and slightly disturbed leader of the DMS field team, and has been at the forefront of all the adventures in this series. It is interesting to note that Ledger is the only character in this book whose story is told from the first person perspective, which is fortunate because Ledger is one of the biggest smartasses in fiction, especially within the privacy of his head. Nearly every single piece of the book told from Ledger’s point of view is filled with jokes, wisecracks, and exaggerated or sarcastic thoughts. Ledger has some incredibly humorous observations about the world around him, especially the eccentric characters he encounters, and his thoughts are just as likely to be self-deprecating as they are to be insulting about the people he has to deal with. He is also an eccentric being who does some incredibly funny things, from having fun with his opponents to humming the Mission Impossible theme as he breaks into a safe. However, beneath this humorous exterior there is a deeply damaged character who is severely impacted by events that have occurred before and during this series. Maberry spends significant time diving into this character’s history and psyche, which quickly gives the reader, even readers previously unfamiliar with the series, a good understanding of his life and the events that define him. His deep and fractured mind becomes a key part of this story, especially when it encounters mind-altering alien crystal and events beyond the realm of human comprehension. All of this helps create an amazing and incredibly relatable central character whom the reader becomes incredibly drawn to, and as a result, Ledger is one of the best things about this book. Special mention should also be given to Ledger’s combat dog Ghost, who appears in nearly all the same scenes as Ledger and is just as much of an enjoyable character as his owner.
While the mad science elements and characters are great, Maberry has also ensured that this is the perfect book for those action junkies looking for fast-paced thrills. Ledger is an absolute beast throughout this book and engages in a number of fantastic fights in a variety of different scenarios. Maberry channels his love of martial arts through this character and includes a number of detailed and very quick fight scenes as Ledger dismantles his opponents with efficient skill. The other characters are no slouches and there are number of great action sequences I enjoyed. Two of my favourites have to be two separate and extended sequences which see Ledger and DMS’s Echo Team engage in massive fire fights with a range of opponents. These scenes are absolutely incredible and make the reader feel like they are really in the middle of a gun battle. The author takes pains to try and highlight how methodical and calm professional teams can be during battles while also highlighting the various strategies and combat advantages used. The multiple perspectives come into play here perfectly, as the different members of Echo Team engage in various encounters around the main battle, really highlighting what an effective special ops team can accomplish in the field. Maberry enhances the fun and the action to a crazy degree by also utilising the advanced technology available to the DMS agents. This not only includes some insane and deadly weaponry, which is very cool in action, but also other pieces of advanced technology such as drones, body armour, goggles, and enhancements for Ghost that help turn the battles into massive and enjoyable set pieces.
Nothing, however, can top the sheer insanity that unfolds when the book’s antagonists unleash their super weapon against the world. Maberry’s descriptive and skilled writing really brings these scenes to life. The sheer devastation of the earthquakes that he describes is just incredible and very disturbing. But nothing is more crazy or electrifying then the scenes where the people who are affected by the strange energy given off by the weapon go insane and start participating in a violent rampage against themselves or against each other. Maberry pulls no punches here and all the violence is on full display, from terrible acts of violence against anyone around them to disturbing suicides or episodes of self-harm. In many of these scenes the author attempts to get into the head of these characters and watch them slowly unfold from within. This mostly prevalent with his protagonist, Joe Ledger, but other characters’ thoughts are shown. Let’s just say you’ll never look at the Beatles song Revolution 9 the same again. The biggest example of this insanity happens around the Capitol building in Washington DC, and quite frankly it reminded me of the church scene in Kingsman: The Secret Service, with the protagonists stuck in the middle of a crazy mob.
One of the more intriguing parts of Deep Silence is the side character of the President of the United States of America. While this character is never explicitly named in the book, he is clearly supposed to be a Trump analogue. The character is an easily manipulated, short-tempered, Twitter-obsessed moron who puts his own needs far above those of the country he is governing. The resemblance to Trump is uncanny, and Maberry does an incredible job mirroring his arrogance and personality throughout the book. While this character is a great addition by itself, Maberry spends a lot of time exploring how a character like this would deal with the advanced technology and extreme catastrophes that are a major part of this series. The results are frustrating for the reader as they are forced to sit there and watch this character make all the wrong decisions and serve his own agenda or self-interest. It was also very intriguing watching this President go up against the DMS as he routinely targets the department out of fear and ignorance. The new political reality of Washington becomes a major factor throughout Deep Silence, and Maberry is understandably critical about how things are being run and the insanity currently gripping Washington. It was very interesting to see Maberry incorporate the current unpredictable political reality of America into his new book, and readers will be very intrigued to see how this might impact the future of his long-running series.
I listened to the audiobook version of Deep Silence, narrated by Ray Porter. The audiobook version does go for over 16 hours, so it’s one of the longer ones I have listened to lately. That being said, due to its exceptional content, I found myself making a variety of excuses just to keep listening to this audiobook, and got through it very quickly. The audiobook is an incredible way to experience this book, and I would highly recommend it, mainly because of Ray Porter’s narration. Porter absolutely nails all of the characters and provides a number of amazing voices to fully capture the diverse accents and attitudes of this eccentric group of characters. I was particularly enthralled with the calm, cool voice he gifted to the DMS Director, Mr Church, which really reminded me of Tom Hanks’s voice. Special mention should also be given to his narration of the President. The narrator created a fantastic Trump-like voice that fully conveyed the character’s high opinion of himself, as well as his dismissive and arrogant nature. I actually had a visceral reaction when I heard that voice the first time, it was that good. Porter’s narration for Joe Ledger was also perfect, as he does an incredible job portraying Ledger’s high-energy musings and the full tone of his personality. Porter’s voice peaks and rises to meet the full intent of any of Ledger’s sentences, and he is a master at conveying Ledger’s innate sarcasm. At the same time, he is also able to make his voice more serious and subdued during the darker scenes in which Ledger is deep within his head or his memories. This is sterling work from Porter, and one of the best audiobook narrations I have ever listened to. As a result, I highly recommend that the audiobook version of Deep Silence as the best way to experience this novel.
Bestselling author Jonathan Maberry once again takes his audience on a captivating thrill ride in the Joe Ledger Series. Deep Silence provides the reader with an extraordinary and very engrossing story that proves extremely hard to put down. Equally enjoyable for established fans of this long-running series and new readers who have yet to experience Maberry’s work, readers can and will have an incredible amount of fun with this book. Best enjoyed in audiobook format, Deep Silence is guaranteed to make you a dedicated fan of the author and easily gets a five-star rating from me.