Saturday, May 22, 2010

Take the Edge Off with Jonathan Maberry

Well, I've been doing this segment for a few weeks now, and so far I've covered music, food, TV, and movies as a source of distraction for the increasingly irritating world that we live in. I realize, however, that I haven't talked about anything to do with reading. So this week I'd like to prove that I'm not illiterate by introducing you to one of my favorite authors, Jonathan Maberry.

I stumbled on Maberry's work by blind luck one day at Border's horror section. I was looking for something new without having much of a plan, so I utilized my fool-proof technique of looking for a book with an interesting cover. Screw reading book reviews or getting recommendations from friends. That's for weak-minded people who are too afraid to take things at face value (I came this close to using "judge a book by its cover," but I just couldn't bring myself to do it). In the case of Maberry's novel Bad Moon Rising, I distinctly remember the first thing that attracted me to it was that the cover was red. I know, I have quite the analytical mind.

As someone who grew up surrounded by farmland in Lancaster, PA, the house on the cover was both creepy and familiar, which piqued my interest. Then when I found out on the back cover that the story actually takes place in Pennsylvania, I knew that this was the book for me... but not quite yet. This was actually the third book of what's become known as the Pine Deep trilogy, a story that follows the survivors of an evil werewolf only to have to face his resurrection 30 years later. So, I picked up the first book of the trilogy, Ghost Road Blues, and started what has become the best series of books that I've ever read.

Before we go any further, I should warn you that if you are looking for a life-changing experience out of this read, you've come to the wrong place. Dostoevski this is not. It is a perfect read for people who, like me, love the horror of the 80s. This is a world of vampires and werewolves, and unlike other book series that rhyme with Schwilight, these vampires and werewolves are actually threatening. They provide plenty of action and even more gore, and Maberry weaves a mythology that interweaves their existence in a very interesting way.

Maberry also has a talent for is writing a very likeable hero. Malcom Crow is the perfect balance between vulnerable everyman and certifiable badass. As a former cop turned store owner/haunted hayride manager, he's basically what you would get if everyone's favorite, unassuming neighbor was actually dealing with the psychological effects of being attacked by a werewolf as a child and had the ability to break both of your legs with his bare hands.

And that's another thing: Jonathan Maberry depicts a fight scene better than anyone I've ever read. According to his Wikipedia page, Maberry is an 8th degree black belt in Shinowara-ryu Jujitsu and his official website lists several books that he's written on martial arts. This experience really comes through in his writing, as he takes the reader through the mind of each fighter and realistically (or at least as realistically as can be expected in a book with vampires and werewolves) describes each blow's intention and consequence in a way that is easy to visualize.

Maberry actually does a great job of helping the reader visualize everything in the world he's created. As someone who has pretty much killed is sense of imagination by relying on movies and TV to provide one for me, I often find myself lost in the gobbledy gook of description in a novel. Maberry, however, had me visualizing everything as if I were in fact watching a movie. Now, this could be because the story takes place in a fictional Pennsylvania town that I imagine to look very much like the places I've lived, but I think more of it has to do with Maberry's ability to describe a scene without trying to be too clever and therefore getting his head stuck in his ass. He's efficient in his descriptions, and that makes me as a reader get lost in the novel very easily.

My one and only complaint in Maberry's writing is that he sometimes makes references that will inherently date his material. Maybe it's just me, but it feels weird having someone refer to a character in a novel use an iPod. I realize the iPod probably isn't going anywhere so people reading Maberry's stuff in the future will know what he's talking about, but something about his references feel like he just thought of something popular off the top of his head without giving it much significance. This is especially true in contrast to the blues songs that he quotes throughout the book, that have an important relevance to the narration.

Nonsensical nitpicking aside, the Pine Deep trilogy only took me a month or
two to read, which for someone like me is a lightening fast pace (hm, maybe I am illiterate). It was one of those reads that I knew I was going to love within one page, and it's stayed with me ever since. His next trilogy based on a new character, Joe Ledger, starts off on the right foot with Patient Zero, a book that delves into the world of terrorists and zombies. Honestly, I don't think I should have to say anything more about that. Terrorists! Zombies! And trust me, I've read it and it's as awesome as it sounds. So, as with everything else I recommend, get off your ass right now and give Jonathan Maberry a try. My plan is to head out ASAP to pick up his newest Joe Ledger novel, The Dragon Factory.


  1. "Screw reading book reviews or getting recommendations from friends. That's for weak-minded people..."

    Okay, no more recommendations from me...

  2. But, do the vampires sparkle in the sunlight? That's on top of my list of necessities in reading a book about vampires....hehehe...Schwilight...

  3. sparkling vampires...and no charming, angst-ridden ones either. The vampires in the Pine Deep Trilogy are monsters. Unpleasant, violent, devious and powerful.

    Glad you enjoyed the Pine Deep novels as well as Patient Zero. Hope you enjoy THE DRAGON FACTORY -I had a wicked amount of fun writing that one!

    -Jonathan Maberry