On the heels of reading Red Rising... So. Much. Testosterone. In one week. Has anyone seen my ovaries? I think I misplaced them somewhere and spontaneously grew balls and maybe a beard while reading these two books.
“An ex latched onto his wrist and tried to bury its teeth in his bicep. He flexed and cracked its jaw, then swung his elbow up to send it sprawling. Another one fell onto his back and he shrugged it off.”
How to Hero. Step One: Flex.
Also, did you see the quote on this book's cover? It's Nathan freaking Fillon, man! That's like twenty thousand points of
streetgeek cred easy, right there!
One thing I like about Peter Clines' books is that you always get the sense that he seems to be having as much fun writing as you are reading them. Well unless you can't find joy in the premise of a team of superhumans led by a fire breathing, indestructible man protecting the survivors of Los Angeles from some 5 million zombies that is. And reading this series, with its healthy dose of pop culture references, hat tips towards Joss Wheddoniminy and comic book geekery, it's like watching someone living out his answer to the "what do you want to be when you grow up" question.
Unsurprisingly, it's a lot like a summer blockbuster movie. Including the silly, cliched a-ha moment, big explosions and gore over character development which, in the proper mindset, shouldn't keep you from enjoying this fun ride.
Ex-Patriots takes place roughly a year after the end of Ex-Heroes and already St. George and his team is finally feeling the strain of the zombocalypse. They have defeated the Seventeens and Peasy but to the cost of a few of his friends and disturbing the status quo within The Mount. More mouths to feed, distrust over the absorbed Seventeen members... all he wants is to go back to being the maintenance guy who catches pickpockets in his spare time. Getting found by an American Military drone one day seemed like the answer to all their prayers... Or is it?
This was told in alternating timelines between the present in Los Angeles and the not too distant past where varying POVs detail the US military's covert research and experimentation around the time the superheroes made themselves known. From the standpoint of a doctor, an administrative assistant and various participants in the experiment... this alternate storyline was equally engaging as the present as the heroes try to figure out how the post-apocalyptic military fits into the bigger zombocalypse picture.
I liked how this better showcased the varying vulnerabilities of each hero, particularly Danielle and Stealth. I think one problem I had in Ex-Heroes is that their individual limitations weren't made as apparent as everyone is still showcasing their abilities as an introduction. Here things get more interesting with a villain that gave them a good run for their money. When you put superheroes in a zombocalypse scenario, it gets hard to find a formidable source of struggle (especially when one is a human supernova) that can sustain a healthy balance of believable push and pull between the 2 camps. Its easy to fall into Peter Petrelli territory (where the hero just gets too ridiculously powerful making the storyline static and pointless) and I'm glad to see this series side-step that mishap.
I was glad to see better depth into Stealth's abilities and, in the process winning my reluctant fangirly love.
“I always figured someday everything would go back to normal. Someone would drive up outside the gates and tell us everything was okay, we could all go home. I could go back to being a maintenance guy who got Thai food from the place on the corner and dressed up in a costume to fight muggers. You could go back to... whatever it was you did for a living.”
“I was a retired fashion model with multiple athletic championships and doctoral degrees,” said Stealth. “By most standards I was independently wealthy.”
“Wow,” he said after a moment. “You really are Batman, aren’t you?”
I wish the sexual tension between her and George will get handled better in the next books than the cliched reveal of the bad guy in this one. It was a bit of a disappointment given how Clines has been delivering. I was also scratching my head why George, who seems like a smart chap, would go around wearing Cairax' tooth as a brooch when its the only thing that can break through his skin.
The story was pretty straightforward and the end was solid in every way. I find myself settling in this high octane, testosterone-fueled dystopian world Clines has created. I'm gradually getting more and more invested in the protagonists and where they are all heading. It takes a while, but when you get there, it's hardly a question what you'll be reading next.