Extinction Machine (Joe Ledger #5) by Jonathan Maberry (Narrated by Ray Porter)

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Publisher: Macmillan Audio | Release Date: March 26, 2013 | Runtime: 14 hours and 53 minutes

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jonathan Maberry gets his X-Files on in the fifth Joe Ledger novel, Extinction Machine. Needless to say, it’s a doozy!

In the midst of a cyberattack and terrorist threats, the President of the United States goes missing. Not just missing, but kidnapped — actually freaking disappeared — from the White House, despite the presence of Secret Service. The only clue to his abduction is a mysterious crop circle on the White House lawn. And so enters the DMS, the Department of Military Science, a covert team of commandos specializing in tackling the misuse of the world’s most cutting-edge weird sciences. Joe Ledger and his team have tackled zombies, plagues, vampires, and now… aliens?

Aliens.

Mysterious aircraft begin appearing in the sky, and a team of assassins equipped with guns unlike anything Ledger has ever seen are trying to kill him and UFO conspiracy theorist podcaster Junie Flynn. Flynn possesses a secret worth killing for, as well as intimate knowledge about the US government’s research into extraterrestrial technology reaching back to President Harry S. Truman’s creation of the Majestic 12 group to recover and investigate alien spacecraft and technology.

Extinction Machine is a trip, man. As is usual of this series, the focus is on killer action sequences (such as Ledger vs an MMA-trained brawler in an absolutely brutal showdown that proves actual combat isn’t a freaking sport) and plenty of gung-ho military know-how, crossbred with strange science and elements of horror. After a number of earthly close encounters, it’s about time the DMS made contact with ET!

It’s rousing fun, and my central quibble is a minor one — why the hell is Joe freaking Ledger so damn resistant to the idea of aliens running amok? Dude’s faced off with actual zombies and a cult of vampires, but after all he’s seen he still can’t take the threat posed by extraterrestrial life seriously. This far into the series, he should be a regular Fox Mulder, ready to believe anything, but instead he cops an attitude of resistance that would make even Dana Scully shake her head in wonderment at his stubborn refusal. Yes, I was a bit annoyed by this, but thankfully Bunny had my back with his True Believer “Why are you surprised by ANY of this?” attitude.

This tiny niggling issue aside, Extinction Machine is another solid entry into Maberry’s on-going series, and gives us an extra bit of elasticity to the nature of threats DMS can and will encounter. If you’ve read or listened to any of the prior entries in audiobook format, you’ve got a solid foundation on what to expect here. It doesn’t break a lot of new ground, although it does a nice job of shaking things up for Ledger and his crew, and it’s a constant dose of pure entertainment.

If anything, the Joe Ledger books have become a bit of a comfort for me to turn to. Ledger’s the perfect, charming, All-American tough guy smartass hero that I really cannot help but root for and want to see kick plenty of old, rich, evil, white guy mad scientist ass. I know what to expect from these books, and can walk away from them feeling pretty damn satisfied. The narration by Ray Porter (easily the best in the business) is damn well perfect, and the man is the definitive voice of Joe Ledger in my mind. Maberry knows what he’s doing, and he does it very well, constantly one-upping the dramatic stakes and action scenes, ratcheting the tension up higher and higher, right to its breaking point. They’re the perfect summer blockbuster epics put to print, and I always finish them wanting more. Luckily, I’ve got plenty left to catch up on…