Publisher: Macmillan Audio (Audiobook – 26 April 2016)
Series: Joe Ledger – Book Eight
Length: 17 hours and 56 minutes
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed as part of my Throwback Thursday series, where I republish old reviews, review books I have read before or review older books I have only just had a chance to read.
I recently found myself in the mood for another intense and crazy thriller novel, and luckily I knew exactly the book to check out, as I ended up listening to the eighth entry in the fantastic Joe Ledger series by Jonathan Maberry, Kill Switch.
People familiar with my blog will know that I have been really getting into Maberry’s writing over the last couple of years. In particular, I have been making my way through the Joe Ledger series, which follows the titular agent as he investigates all manner of weird science and world-ending plots. This has swiftly become one of my favourite series of all time thanks to the incredible stories that Maberry has come up with, and my intention is to finish off all the Joe Ledger books before the end of the year. As a result, I knew far in advance that I was going to enjoy Kill Switch and I ended having an amazing time reading it.
In this eighth novel, Joe Ledger, agent for the clandestine Department of Military Sciences (DMS), is investigating a strange anomaly down in the Antarctic. A secret military research facility has gone offline, and Ledger and his team need to find out why. However, what at first appears to be a routine mission quickly devolves into an unnatural horror show as the DMS agents uncover a mysterious facility deep beneath the ice. The things that Ledger and his team see will haunt them for the rest of their lives, and by the time they escape all three are infected with a deadly disease that places them into a coma.
Awakening several days later, Ledger discovers that much has happened in his absence. America has been targeted by a ruthless terrorist organisation that apparently has access to an advanced EMP weapon that can turn off all power and technology in a certain area with devastating effects. Worse, thanks to the consequences of the mission down in Antarctica and other recent failures, the DMS no longer has the confidence of the President, who refuses to give them the case.
Frustrated at being left out in the cold, Ledger and the DMS investigate where they can and soon come across several strange and seemingly unconnected events. Able to piece together a pattern that no one else can see, Ledger soon finds himself in the heart of a vast conspiracy that aims to launch a shocking attack on the American people. However, before they can intervene, Ledger and his team find themselves under attack from the most unlikely of places. Can even the legendary Joe Ledger defeat an opponent who can attack him in his own mind, or will America face a wave of death and destruction the like of which they have never seen before?
Kill Switch was another fantastic and amazing novel from Maberry that continues the amazing Joe Ledger series. This eighth book contains a captivating story that combines several different genres together to create an exciting and fast-paced read with some rather enjoyable elements to it. I had an awesome time listening to this book, and while it is not my absolute favourite entry in the Joe Ledger series (I would have to give that honour either to The Dragon Factory or Code Zero), it was still a very impressive book that gets a full five-star rating from me.
In this eighth Joe Ledger novel, Maberry once again uses his distinctive style to tell another impressive and intriguing story that draws the reader in and ensures that they cannot turn away until it is finished. Kill Switch contains a rather clever thriller storyline that deals with the protagonist attempting to stop another terrible terrorist plot utilising advanced technology. While some of the elements to Kill Switch’s story are familiar, Maberry really gives this book a distinctive dark horror tint, as the novel deals with a number of Lovecraftian horror elements. While this genre is not something that I have ever really gone out of my way to check out, I did enjoy its use in Kill Switch, especially as it sent its already unstable protagonist through some particular vivid and trippy vision sequences. The various horror, science fiction and thriller aspects of the book’s narrative work together extremely well and it is a testament to Maberry’s skill as an author that the plot did not get too convoluted or hard to follow. Instead, Kill Switch has an extremely elegant and fast-paced story with some great flashes of humour, enhanced by the author’s trademark use of multiple perspectives and interludes set before the main plot. Maberry rounds this out with the return of the series enjoyable and long-running cast of characters, including protagonist Joe Ledger, who provides a first-person narration for around half the story. Ledger’s warped and eccentric view of all the events going on around him adds so much enjoyment to the plot, resulting in much of the book’s humour. This all ensures that Kill Switch contains another top-notch story that was an absolute pleasure to read.
The key parts of any Joe Ledger novel are the complex and memorable antagonists and the elaborate and destructive plots that they weave. Maberry does another great job of this in Kill Switch, introducing some compelling villains and associated side characters who have some fascinating motivations for initiating the events of this book. Thanks to a series of interludes and short chapters that are told from the perspective of the antagonist and their puppets, you get a full sense of why these characters are doing what they are doing, especially when you get a glimpse into several key moments of their lives. Seeing so much of the antagonist’s past and the formation of their plans adds quite a lot of depth and tension to the story, and I always really appreciate the way that Maberry tries to expand these character’s narratives. I was also quite enraptured by the complex and detailed plan that the antagonist set in motion, especially as it required using some unique technology in some novel ways. I especially enjoyed the cunning way in which the villains went after Ledger and the DMS, including by destroyed their image and their influence, and I appreciated the way in which it was easier for them to achieve this due to an inadvertent backlash at the organisations prior extreme successes and advanced technology.
Kill Switch ended up being a major part of the overall series with some big moments occurring and some interesting connections to the prior novels, ensuring that this is a must-read for established Joe Ledger fans. This book ended up continuing a bunch of key storylines that were introduced in the fifth novel, The Extinction Machine, with several plot points from that story revisited, as well as some antagonists. In addition, several of the story elements introduced in Kill Switch are heavily utilised in future novels, such as in the tenth book, Deep Silence, which also matches its Lovecraftian horror vibes and story. In addition, readers might also really appreciate the cameo appearance of Maberry’s alternate zombie-filled universe that is used as a setting for several of his other series, such as the Dead of Night books and his iconic Rot & Ruin/Broken Lands young adult novels, all of which feature a different version of Joe Ledger as a character. There were also a couple of references to the town of Pinedeep, which served as the setting for Maberry’s first series, and which Ledger visited in the short story Material Witness.
While Kill Switch does have some intriguing connections to some of Maberry’s other works, this novel is incredibly accessible for those readers unfamiliar with the Joe Ledger books. Like all the novels in this series, Kill Switch’s narrative is mostly self-contained, and you can start reading this book without any issues. While there are a number of references to the events of the prior books, Maberry also makes sure to cover the relevant backstory, expertly inserting anecdotes about prior books and description of key plot points into the story often in a great entertaining manner (mainly because the protagonists still cannot believe that these previous events actually occurred). This ensures that readers have more than enough background information to follow the story and understand who all the various characters are and what their personalities are like.
While it is extremely possible to read Kill Switch out of order, I would strongly suggest that readers read this series from the first novel, Patient Zero, rather than starting at the eighth book. Not only does this allow you to see the various characters develop and progress throughout the course of the series, but it also enhances the emotional attachment that readers will have to the events of this book, including a couple of key character deaths. Reading the series in order also helps to cut down on spoilers for some of the prior books. This was something that I particularly noticed while reading Kill Switch, due to the fact that I have already read the sequel novels Deep Silence and Rage. Both of these books make several references to the events of Kill Switch, so I had an idea of some of the events that were going to occur, as well as the identity of who the main antagonist was going to be. While this did not derail my enjoyment of Kill Switch by too much, it did slightly reduce the suspense, which was not ideal.
I cannot review a Joe Ledger novel without commenting on the impressive and graphic action sequences that occurred throughout the course of the plot. Maberry always does such a fantastic job writing his action scenes and the various close combat fights and shoot outs that occur throughout these novels feel extremely realistic as the protagonist and the narrator provide detailed explanations of what is occurring and its destructive impacts. Kill Switch contains some very impressive action sequences as Ledger and his comrades are placed in some unique fight situations. While there are the usual swift and one-sided fights against nameless goons, the characters often find themselves facing off against unexpected opponents who visit surprising violence upon them. This makes for some truly shocking scenes, especially as Maberry’s excellent writing ensures that the reader fully understands the various characters’ surprise and despair. You also have a unique situation where Ledger, generally considered to be one of the deadliest killers on the planet, finds himself severely handicapped in several fights due to the machinations of the antagonists. This adds a whole new element to the typical fight sequences from this series, and it is nice to see the protagonist have some new challenges. All this action helps to pump the reader up as they enjoy the excellent story and it is an amazing part of the overall book.
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read my prior Joe Ledger reviews that I ended up listening to the audiobook version of Kill Switch, which in my opinion is the best format for enjoying these fantastic novels. The Kill Switch audiobook has a run time of just under 18 hours, which I was able to get through incredibly quickly, and it was once again narrated by Ray Porter, whose voice work is easily my favourite thing about this format. I have extolled the virtues of Porter’s narration in several of my other reviews due to his impressive vocal skills and his ability to move the story along at a swift and exciting pace. Very few narrators are as in touch with the characters that they voice than Porter especially when it comes to the series’ titular protagonist, Joe Ledger. Porter always does such an outstanding job capturing Ledger’s intense emotions and sweeping personality, and this enhances the listener’s experience when it comes to these books. Porter also does amazing and consistent personifications for all the other characters in these books and it was great to hear all the familiar voices of the series’ recurring characters again. This first-rate narration from Porter makes the audiobook format of these novels, including Kill Switch, an absolute treat to listen to and the audiobook format remains my preferred format for enjoying this series.
Kill Switch by Jonathan Maberry is an excellent and impressive thriller novel that served as a great eighth entry in the incredible Joe Ledger series. I had an absolute blast going back and reading this book, and I really enjoyed the clever and intriguing story that Maberry cooked up for Kill Switch, especially as it contained an outstanding blend of different genres. This was a fantastic read and it comes very highly recommended. At this point in time I only have one more Joe Ledger novel to check out, Dogs of War, which I am really hoping to read before the end of the year, and I am also looking forward to checking out Maberry’s new upcoming novel, Ink.