Review by Nu Yang
by Peter Clines
When the front cover blurb on your very first book says, “The Avengers meets The Walking Dead...” readers expect to read a pretty good book. After all, it's being marketed after one of the biggest movies and one of the most popular TV shows on right now. Plus, superheroes and zombies are hot—like volcano hot. It's going to attract fans of both genres, fans like me!
Overall, I enjoyed the book. Ex-Heroes has a unique premise: superheroes in the zombie apocalypse?! And a really cool setting: Los Angeles. Most of the time, you have survivors of a zombie apocalypse taking shelter in the middle of nowhere, but it was pretty entertaining to have the superheroes and human survivors take out zombies—including celebrities—in the city of Angels. By the way, the more famous the celebrity, the more points you get for that kill!
Clines doesn't call the undead zombies, they're “exes,” as in ex-humans. Haven't seen that term before.
As a Southern California resident, it was cool to picture downtown Los Angeles littered with exes. Clines did a good job with the setting and making it believable that superheroes can also take part of the zombie apocalypse.
Clines gives each superhero some good backstory of what life was like for them before the exes existed. Even though superheroes played the point of view characters, it still felt like a very human book. Each superhero plays an important in the story, and without giving much away, let's just say none of the superheroes are wasted in this ensemble piece.
I like how Clines ramped up the conflict. Not only do we have the undead roaming the streets, we also have a street gang on the other side of town to deal with. Zombies and dangerous criminals? What else is there? Oh, yeah, every superhero needs a villain, and guess what? Villains also exist in this zombie apocalypse, but I won't spoil you on who the villain is or what this villain can do.
Clines doesn't shy away from the gore. It's a zombie book, right? We have missing limbs, blood, headless corpses, even a child-ex that “(crashes) down a dozen blocks away in a splash of bone and meat.”
Now, there were some cons for me in this book. This is more a personal preference, but I felt like there were too many POV characters. The book uses flashbacks (a pet peeve of mine) titled THEN, each one is told from a separate superhero's POV, then in the present titled NOW, it's told in third person. At the beginning, it was hard for me to keep track of each character and when it slipped in THEN, sometimes, I lost track of which superhero we were time-traveling with. At least with The Avengers, each superhero got his own movie before they assembled (haha). Clines also went back and forth a few times by calling superheroes by their superhero name (ex. Cerberus) and their civilian names (ex. Danielle). More things for me to remember. It's okay for a character or two, but when you have six superheroes as your main characters, it can get messy. It doesn't help when one of them is named Zzzap either.
I also noticed that perhaps Clines has something against strong Asian women (*clears throat*). Each time an Asian woman was introduced, he described them as “bitchy.” Example: “Who the hell is Sandra Oh?” when the group thinks they see the undead actress. “From Grey's Anatomy. The bitchy Asian woman” is the answer. And then there's, “One of the civilians, a bitchy former LA city councilwoman named Christian Nguyen...”
Other than that, Ex-Heroes was a fun read that geeks everywhere might enjoy.
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