Dogs of War. Jonathan Maberry. 2017.
Technophobes and luddites might just have the right mindset if the premise of Maberry’s rip-roaring new thriller is to be believed: A technological apocalypse is primed to eliminate several billion useless humans, allowing the intellectual elite to live in harmony with advanced artificial intelligences. Rich, evil geeks and brilliant robots will take over the world.
Fortunately, Captain Joe Ledger is on the job. Even more cynical. Ready for action.
But Joe and his team are damaged in spirit. Suffering from events in their previous adventure, Kill Switch, that turned their worlds upside down, they’ve let uncertainty creep into their psyches. Their Department of Military Services, backed by their enigmatic boss, Mr. Church, has lost credibility. Their own skills are under question.
Joe is called in by his brother Sean, a Baltimore cop, to help investigate the unusual death of a runaway teen turned prostitute. When they discover nanites in her brain programmed to deliver a targeted disease, Joe realizes this is part of a much larger, much more insidious plot that was put in motion decades earlier by a nemesis of the DMS.
Now going by the name John the Revelator, this archenemy is a mysterious preacher of the curated technological singularity. John has molded the destiny of one Zephyr Bain, a brilliant, rich, ruthless roboticist. United with John’s vision, Zephyr designed Calpurnia: the first self-aware artificial intelligence and the key to coming apocalypse.
Can Joe and his team regain their mojo? Can Calpurnia be stopped? Readers are in for a wild ride before those questions are answered.
This new installment in the Joe Ledger series is a highly rewarding read. The characters are old friends if you’ve followed them since Patient Zero, but are so well-drawn – and continue to be developed – that there is no problem getting to know them if this is your first adventure with the team. Ledger himself is a complicated tough guy with a heart of gold. He’ll tell you he has three personality types vying for dominance: Modern Man, Cop, and Killer. Even the bad guys have life-like vulnerabilities and memorable personalities.
The plot is intriguing and disturbingly possible. The combination of an immediate and engaging style – we fly between Joe’s first-person narration to tense third person – dynamite action sequences, and just a whisper of the supernatural, makes the book tear along. Nearly every chapter ends with a cliffhanger. Dogs of War is hands down a great read. Nice job again, Mr. Maberry.