I really, really liked Patient Zero so I was eager to read this sequel.
To be honest, I was thinking it was four stars until I got to the end. The story was solid, I just have a lot of skepticism any time a book brings in Nazis. Too often writers use it as convenient shorthand for evil. You don't need to prove the bad guys are bad, they're Nazis! To his credit, Maberry does go to some lengths to prove that the bad guys are bad and even more to his credit he makes the point more than once that not everyone in Germany in the 30s and 40s was a Nazi. I just couldn't help feeling like it might have had more impact if the antagonists had the same philosophies without calling themselves Nazis although that would have made other things highly problematic.
The basic (non-spoiler) premise is that the antagonists want to make hereditary diseases that affect only certain ethnic groups into communicable diseases with the idea that everyone who is not part of the Master Race would be wiped out. The problem is there's no real explanation for it. Hitler was famously part Jewish so they would have wiped him out, too, were he still alive. There's no discussion of that. No real discussion of what it would mean to have a Master Race. They're creating lesser races to serve them so it seems to me they're simply replacing one (to their eyes inferior) race with another. And the difference is the color of the skin? They acknowledge they're going to cause billions of deaths, but to what end? Does the human race need that much winnowing? It's not like they're concerned about overpopulation. It seems like a lot of work to do something just because they can. One of the main antagonists even acknowledges it's not like the surviving white people would band together afterward, more likely they'd turn to fighting amongst themselves after the world as they know it is ended. So...what's the point?
One of the main antagonists also acknowledges very early on that he's not entirely sane but I hope the motive isn't supposed to be simply he's insane so he doesn't need a logical motive. I just felt like I needed more. Clearly there was low tolerance for stupidity and incompetence but there needed to be a motivator there besides whites are superior (in the mind of the characters). This is where you run into the they're doing it because they're Nazis problem.
Having said all of that, Maberry does some really interesting things with genetics. Two of his antagonists create mythological animals for very rich buyers who want to hunt them or own them (for protection, for the cachet, etc). He also touches a little on the nature/nurture debate.
I continue to like Joe Ledger and his struggle to retain his humanity in the face of the horrible things he deals with day after day. Portraying that struggle is definitely one of Maberry's strengths.
I would have liked to see more of Rudy, Cobbler, and Grace, but perhaps next time.
Despite all my problems with the motivations of the antagonists, this is a good book. It's tightly plotted with a powerful ending that moved it from four to five stars.
I can't wait to read the next book.