Ex-heroes: A mini-book review

I just finished reading Ex-heroes, by Peter Clines. It’s a post-apocalyptic zombie novel set in a world where super heroes are real.  The story is told from the point of view of the heroes.  The heroes are trying to protect a community of normal humans who have sheltered in the Mount (a film-studio-turned fortress.  I think you can guess which one) from hordes of zombies — called Exes, as in ex-humans — in Los Angeles.  And then things get worse. Much, much worse.  Not all the threats to the heroes and the people of the Mount are zombies, not all of the zombies are what they seem, and worst of all, some of the heroes are ex-heroes.

The normal humans in the story are underdone.  In general, they are not really characters, they serve to illustrate the irrationality, fear, and short-sightedness of humans which justifies the roles the heroes have taken on in zombified-LA.  This is forgivable because the heroes are so vividly alive.  They have complex, believable inner selves and sensible strengths and weaknesses.  There’s no kryptonite or ex machina limits on the heroes powers, their weaknesses and strengths are all of a piece.  The story is nicely balanced between action and story, with a thrilling clash at the end of the book that is very well paced and well told.

There’s a lot of talk in zombie-circles about whether or not the zombie-genre is played out.  In the recent crush of zombie stories (in movies, TV shows, books, etc.), there are very few new plots or mechanisms.  Of course, the best zombie stories aren’t about the zombies anyway — they are about the humans.  This book adds something to the genre — new ideas, an intriguingly clever new source for zombie-ism, new kinds of characters.  But that’s not to say that this book is for zombie-fans only.  It tells a good story as well.

I was not surprised to learn that Clines is a television scriptwriter.  The book is extremely visual, and shifts across multiple first-person perspectives.  Each chapter is written like a scene.  In this case, this is a strength.  The story is so well-structured that the shifts across time, space and characters are not jarring at all.

I was sad when the book ended, because I wanted to spend more time with these characters.  So I was really pleased to learn that there’s a sequel due out soon.  You know I’ll be reading it!

Posted on September 5th, 2011 by Katxena