In Peter Clines’ latest book, superheroes are still fighting zombies at the end of the world. But now the U.S. Army has gotten involved. And that’s bad news. The military always turns evil during a zombie apocalypse. Everybody knows that.
Things were looking pretty good at the conclusion of Ex-Heroes, the first novel in this highly entertaining series. St. George and his super friends had defeated a supernatural zombie threat, made peace with a rowdy street gang called the South Seventeens, and shored up their home base at Paramount Studios. Sure, there were still five million zombies chewing up the scenery in Los Angeles. But overall, life in the “zombocalypse” had become relatively manageable.
That was before the Army showed up, however. Uncle Sam has heard about the super shenanigans going on in L.A. and he wants a piece of the action. “There’s no point in having superheroes in the United States if the government doesn’t control them,” explains Agent John Smith of the Department of Homeland Security. Push comes to shove and before you know it, the superheroes, the Army, and the zombies are caught in an Arizona desert haboob.
Like the first novel, Ex-Patriots is hellah fun. Clines has an ear for snappy dialog and a propulsive way of telling a story. He also has great affection for his superheroes. And so do we. Without a doubt, our favorite of the bunch is Stealth. Before the world started to crumble, she was a wealthy fashion model with multiple athletic championships and doctoral degrees. Now she’s a sexy Batman-like ninja assassin (or whatever). Secret identities are irrelevant in the apocalypse, but nobody has ever seen her in anything but a bodysuit and mask. “Her costume might actually be sewn on,” speculates an Army guard at one point. No matter how freaky she may seem, we love her commitment and candor. She is easily the most captivating and complex character in the book.
Unfortunately, the novel isn’t a total success. The unsatisfying denouement will have many readers shaking their heads in frustration. In the end, the evil Homeland Security agent escapes and the pesky zombie villain is abandoned in the Arizona desert. Nothing is really resolved. The Awesome Ape doesn’t even make an appearance. The novel has plenty of humor and carnage. But it feels incomplete. It’s almost like the author is saving his big bang for the next book. Fingers crossed.
[Ex-Patriots / By Peter Clines / First Printing: September 2011 / ISBN: 9781934861875]