Author(s): Peter Clines
Series: Ex-Heroes #1
Published by Broadway Books on 02/26/2013
Genres: Science Fiction
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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.
Ex-Heroes is an interesting mashup of two very different book sub-genre’s, super-hero action and the zombie apocalypse. What is even more surprising than the mashup even existing is that it actually works. It seems the difficulty level of this is pretty high, but Clines pulls it off.
The story is set after the apocalypse has already happened, so naturally Cline has to spend a lot of time in flashback explaining what happened. Thankfully this doesn’t break up the pacing and works in the narrative fairly well. Most of the books I have read that relied on flashbacks for exposition it did hurt the pacing, so the fact that this book still flows well is a credit to the writer.
I found the use of heroes particularly interesting in Ex-Heroes. First is the fact that, even with all their superpowers, they were unable to stop the apocalypse from happening. Superheroes in books are often fairly one dimensional, and this failing of the archetype here helps round it out. Added to that is the use of heroes being turned into zombies. Mindless zombies with superpowers they only kind of use because they are mindless is an interesting take. Finally is the integration of superheroes into the outbreak itself.
The zombie part of the book is fairly ho-hum, but that might just be me as a jaded reader. It seems there are only so many things you can do with zombies themselves. In all reality this would have been a fairly mediocre zombie book if it weren’t for the superhero aspect.
Everything else about the book aside from the use of the main themes is good if not great. The characters were well written if a bit formulaic. The pacing is decent, but does slow a little in a few places.
In reality this would have been a 3 or 3.5 star book if it weren’t for the interesting premise. That premise however is interesting, and pulls Ex-Heroes from a better than average to pretty darn good.
Review by Travis Starnes