"This one's going to sound really weird."
And because this is a Peter Clines book, Barry qualifies this as "first-season LOST-level weirdness" when, if I'm being strict about it, the more accurate analogy would be season 3.
I was actually enjoying this installment in this highly entertaining series up to a certain point when the homages just reached critical mass that the story collapsed in itself for me. While I appreciate the creative though, let's face it, derivative storytelling (I could practically imagine the first scene opening with a tight shot of George's eyes opening) I'm starting to yearn for a direction for this series as a whole. I mean, the BOOM! KA-POW! SMASH!, the homage-y story lines and pop culture quips could only sustain the readers' interest for so long.
This is not a TV series after all. These people can't just live out a sitcom life with a Monster of the Week every time a book from this series is released. There has to be some point to all of this… at some point, y'know?
Ex-Purgatory starts in a strange setting where George Bailey works as a maintenance crew in a local college in LA. He punches in five days a week, worries about parking, battles rush hour traffic and tries to keep himself on the good graces of his boss. One strange day, a pale young girl in a wheeled chair approaches him and tells him about the troubling dreams he's been having. He dreams of falling endlessly and battling real-life monsters and walking corpses alongside a dominatrix ninja, a behemoth soldier, a mobile suite and a man made of light. She tells him they do not belong here and they have to go back as they are the last hope of a world that was ended by a great plague. He would've gladly dismissed such ridiculous notions but his dreams have been getting increasingly vivid, sometimes making him wonder if he was even dreaming them at all.
Unlike its predecessors, Ex-Purgatory's story line revolves not on who the bad guy is (because if you've been following the series, it's pretty obvious who's behind this) but instead leads your mind to wander on the logistics: where they are, how they got there and what's the escape plan.
I could easily reference which movies this paid homage to The Matrix and Inception and you get the sense that's the direction Clines is taking this but you're sticking around to see how he will pull it off. Because let's face it, both those movies are highly visual and would be difficult to cut across when limited by the boundaries of ink, pages and the reader's imagination. And this book failed exactly in that aspect for me. I mean the fight sequences are starting to blend together into a massively boring deja vu. George/Stealth/Feeedom incinerates/skull-crushes/decapitates/shoots/roundhouse kicks ten zombies at a time...
Perhaps my ability to imagine the many ways how to kill a zombie was exhausted enough to follow the convoluted logic behind this book.
Perhaps it's the characters that ultimately failed me this time because the scales just tipped too much in the villain's favor. I love the bad guy here but while his abilities made for a good story line, the logic was just stretched too thin. Unless Clines plans on having An Architect or a Jacob somewhere just to make this more derivative than it already is. I mean, he could've ended this entire book, basically the entire series, from Day 1. I'm not even sure if he has an end-game planned here because should he win and defeat the Supers the incentive is a world that is basically crawling with the undead.
Or perhaps it really just boils down to my irritation of Danielle and her lack of purpose in this series as a whole. She's obviously the most un-super of the supers and yet there was a severe lack in the effort to balance out this weakness with any personality whatsoever. She feels a lot like a throwaway character, to satisfy the estrogen quota of in a zombocalypse book.
Uh, basically a muttering, self-hugging, agoraphobe who was an all around pain in the ass throughout this book. Can't we just have two Barry Burkes please?
I am almost certain Ex-Purgatory would work miles better if I haven't been reading the Ex books in chronological order. I would even daresay this is a better and more exciting introductory book to the series (or even Peter Clines' backlist) than Ex-Heroes or 14 because the novelty of the delivery would still be fresh and the mystery would have enough complexity to amaze first-time readers.
Pixar recently listed its 22 Rules on Storytelling and while this series is probably a distant galaxy from the Pixar universe, I find this sentiment is universal, or atleast SHOULD BE universal for every storyteller/filmmaker/writer/author out there.
Rule #4: Once upon a time there was _____. Every day, ______. One day _____. Because of that _____. Because of that ______. Until finally______.
Someone needs to remind Peter Clines there needs to be an 'Until finally' after all those 'Because of thats'.
ARC provided by Crown Publishing (Broadway Books) thru NetGalley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.