BOOK REVIEW: Pathogen: Patient Zero by Kai Kiriyama (3 stars)

Please note: I read an ARC of Pathogen and have assumed any typos/production errors have been corrected by the published date.

Verdict: Nicely paced and enjoyable.

Pathogen: Patient Zero is a horror detailing the treatment of Patient Zero, the origin of a zombie virus.

Pathogen is short, engaging book that I whizzed through over two days’ worth of train journeys. Told from the first person perspective, it follows the story of a young woman with a mysterious illness.


Zero is clever and determined, and has her whole life ahead of her. With parents who eerily echo my own, I found myself connecting with her on a simple empathetic level; this girl was sick and no one knew how to make it better. Within days, she is facing her own mortality, made more frightening by lack of empathy by most of her doctors – all but one.

I found myself unabashedly welling up at certain moments because, as a frequent hospital visitor myself, I got it. The writing from a patient perspective worked in a way I recognised as authentic – the false courage so that loved ones don’t worry, and the anger you feel at yourself for allowing yourself to get sick.

Marketed as a zombie origin story, the ending is inevitable and unsurprising, but Pathogen makes you truly care Zero in the meantime.

Having said that, I found Zero – at times – too intelligent to be believable. As a teenager, she sometimes seemed to be unrealistically knowledgeable about things varied and high-brow. I also found the last chapter a bit unnecessary, and the last line still bothers me a little as I believe it would have read better without the ellipsis.

Despite those quibbles, Pathogen: Patient Zero is a quick, enjoyable read, with the right balance between pace and character to make waves in the pool of zombie clichés. Recommended.

Go on, let me know what you think!

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