A couple of years ago, I reviewed an anthology about a covert operative named Joe Ledger. This particular collection of short stories, called Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, was written by a variety of authors but edited by the character’s creator, Jonathan Maberry. I loved the supernatural twists within that book but I was aware, even then, that these were unusual for this protagonist who is more tactical and paramilitary oriented. Having said that, when I was given an opportunity to read and review this newest release, Rage, I leapt at the chance. Joe Ledger has that effect on readers.
Apparently, Ledger has been a part of the Department of Military Sciences until recently. Now, with less oversight and more freedom, he and his team are working on a broader scale to do what must be done when normal means are not enough. His group, called Havoc Team, are but a part of what is now called Rogue Team International. So, while DMS may be gone, Ledger is still in the game. For instance, at the very beginning of this novel, he and his group are engaged in a search and rescue of a young girl who has been kidnapped. His no holds barred way of doing his job is what makes him so deadly and also so versatile.
The major theme for this first book in the series is bio-weaponry and the maniacal use of them to attempt to facilitate a war. Things quickly spiral out of control and the chaos that is created seems to be the perfect setting for Ledger and company. There is some notoriety that comes with being him, as well. At one point he is recognized and a simple plan goes sideways because of this. I am sure longtime readers will recognize many of the supporting cast, but I was at a loss. There is no need to have read the previous books, but the reader does not get the full effect and back story without it.
Another unexpected piece of this was the random bits of humor and true humanity. Readers get to see more than just the operative side, we get to see his relationships, his joy, his fears. The depth of all of the characters is beyond the norm; even the secondary characters get the same treatment.
The action is non-stop and, honestly, quite refreshing. There are basic elements to any fight scene that are necessary, but there is a distinct lack of specificity that usually drives me nuts when reading action-adventure books. What I mean is that the weapons and actions are laid out but the minutia is not discussed with regards to all of the finer details of each weapon or tactical situation. This allows the reader to stay focused on the plot and not get bogged down constantly with things that have no lasting impact on the story; I applaud this tactic and it endeared the book to me almost from the start.
As the reader follows the story from event to event all over the globe, the tension builds to extreme levels. With random interludes and multiple timelines, the reader is kept on their toes but always interested. New friends and allies are made and old enemies rear their ugly heads. You will find yourself powering through chapters to get to a stopping point but spoiler alert: there is no good place to take a break, so just read the whole thing in one sitting. It is almost five hundred pages but I have faith in you, dear reader. You can do it!
I absolutely loved this story. I was taken with the character when I wrote the first article, but this story sealed the deal. I will be actively seeking out the rest of the books so I can get the full effect and all of the story. If you are new to the character, this is a decent place to start since it begins a new chapter in Ledger’s adventures.
All things considered, the plot for this one is deep and leaves a lot of room for other plots to spin off of it. But the ending of this story is what hooked me for the next one. Because often, rage will lead to revenge. And Ledger will have his revenge, mark my words.
A small island off the coast of Korea is torn apart by a bioweapon that drives everyone”•men, women, and children”•insane with murderous rage. The people behind the attack want Korea reunified or destroyed. No middle ground. No mercy. Soon Japan, China, and the United States are pushed to the brink of war, while terrorists threaten to release the rage bioweapon in a way of pure destructive slaughter. Joe Ledger leads his newly formed band of international troubleshooters in their first mission to stop the terror cell, fighting alongside agents from North and South Korea. With the lives of billions at stake, Ledger is willing to bring his own brand of terror to this frightening new war.