When the publicist handling The Mongoliad, Book 3 originally got in touch with me, she mentioned that she knew fantasy was my main thing, but she explained that she had an incredibly fun genre mash-up that she thought I'd be interested in. And she hooked me up with its premise:
In Ex-Heroes, it’s zombies versus superheroes—a face-off we’ve never seen before—complete with a cast of fresh, interestingly flawed new heroes that will appeal to even the most jaded comic-book fans and horror junkies. Los Angeles has been devastated by the zombie apocalypse, devoid of human life—except for one last stronghold, the film-studio-turned-fortress known as “The Mount.”
Protecting the city’s last survivors who are huddled within the walls of the Mount are the superheroes Stealth, Gorgon, Regenerator, Cerberus, Zzzap, and The Mighty Dragon. Terrified by the overwhelming responsibility of protecting what may be the last members of the human race and scarred by the horrors they’ve endured, the heroes struggle to hold back the zombie hordes, keep the Mount’s inhabitants alive, and be the symbols of hope the survivors so desperately need. But the heroes are about to learn that the zombies are the least of the threats they now face. Former heroes, their psyches and powers hideously twisted, lurk in the city’s ruins…and just a few miles away from the Mount’s walls waits an enemy with the most terrifying ability imaginable.
More Joss Whedon’s The Avengers than Saw, Ex-Heroes has plenty to offer zombie afficionados, but is by no means just for horror fans. Clines, who worked in the film and television industry for fifteen years, has crafted a summer blockbuster in book form, delivering remarkably cinematic action scenes, innovative new heroes and powers, masterful thriller plotting, and character relationships that will engross any reader looking for smart, genuinely page-turning adventure fiction.
And when I read the extract I requested to help promote the novel, I knew I wanted to read the rest of the story. Peter Clines' Ex-Heroes will never win any genre awards. And yet, it was a decidedly fun and entertaining read!
Here's the blurb:
Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes, using their superhuman abilities to make Los Angeles a better place. Then the plague of living death spread around the globe. Billions died, civilization fell, and the city of angels was left a desolate zombie wasteland. Now, a year later, the Mighty Dragon and his companions protect a last few thousand survivors in their film-studio-turned-fortress, the Mount. Scarred and traumatized by the horrors they’ve endured, the heroes fight the armies of ravenous ex-humans at their citadel’s gates, lead teams out to scavenge for supplies—and struggle to be the symbols of strength and hope the survivors so desperately need. But the hungry ex-humans aren’t the only threats the heroes face. Former allies, their powers and psyches hideously twisted, lurk in the city’s ruins. And just a few miles away, another group is slowly amassing power . . . led by an enemy with the most terrifying ability of all.
At first, given the book's premise, I thought it would be something along the lines of works by Max Brooks and Justin Cronin. But although Ex-Heroes does bear some similarities with these authors' series, Peter Clines' novel is nevertheless quite original. Indeed, the author often uses some preconceptions readers may have to turn the tables on them. Needless to say, Clines has a number of surprises up his sleeve and those unexpected twists make for a pleasant reading experience. Dark and witty, I found Clines' narrative voice to resemble that of Charlie Huston. All the pop culture references add some extra spice to the storylines.
The setting, a devastated city of Los Angeles, is well-done and creates an interesting imagery as you read along. I particularly enjoyed how chapters are split into "Then" and "Now" installments. This allows readers to follow the progression of the various plotlines, while at the same time discover what led to the zombie apocalypse through the eyes of all the superheroes involved, living and dead. As is often the case, those back stories had more depth and layers to what at face value appeared to be a straightforward and linear tale.
Though it looks as though St. George gets a bit more "air time" than the others, via the "Then" chapters all the superheroes take center stage and play a role, either in the past or the present, in the resolution of this novel. Peter Clines made an effort to try to steer clear of a panoply of comic book tropes and clichés. And yet, even if he was successful for the most part, sometimes it doesn't work as well as the author probably envisioned. Stealth is a good example of the super sexy yet intelligent woman who didn't turn out as interesting as she was meant to be, methinks. But overall, the cast of protagonists is comprised of a number of engaging men and women.
Ex-Heroes is a relatively short work that is paced to perfection. It is indeed a page-turner, and all too quickly one reaches the end of the tale. It's not the kind of book that makes an impression, that stays with you for days or weeks afterward. But Peter Clines came up with an action-packed and entertaining work that should satisfy anyone in the mood for an unlikely bunch of superheroes trying to save their little corner of the world from being overrun by zombies. If you are looking for a fun read, this has to be it!