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Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines


by Peter Clines

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Ex-heroes (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
Zombies are easy. I mean, they were old in 1999 as a metaphor. Romero is the original and noone since has really done anything too new with it. I'll admit, I liked the Walking Dead comics...to a point. The torture issue finished it for me, and I never went back. But I did appreciate the theme running through WD that no matter how brutal the zombies were, it was the cruelty of the living humans that was always the greatest. But zombies were old in 1999 when I mocked the gimmick in my first novel, Death by Zamboni, but having the main character riff on how fun it was to beat up zombies. You can tear 'em apart...or whatever...just for fun. See, no one cares if you kill zombies. It's the perfect excuse for violence. We can glorify the violence and excuse the heroes brutality...because they are dead things, after all. Just viruses controlling bodies for inscrutable reasons.

And that brings us to Ex Heroes, a mash-up of superheroes and zombies, which allows for R-rated superhero violence in that exact manner. No one can think badly of them for tearing apart a zombie, right? Well, actually. My gut reaction to this book was that it was racist. I gave it a chance because I thought, it might end up having a racial theme arise somewhere later in the story. But no. Two things made me feel it was racist. One, every time an individual zombie was described (gleefully) as being ripped apart, we were told what race they belonged to. Since this book happened to be set in LA, there were quite a few Asians. He'd also describe if they were blonde or brunette or old or young. But especially the race and especially Asian. Then second, there was the Latino gang that was portrayed as being lead by a single intelligent undead monster. Who could control zombies with his superpower. The gang members were portrayed as animalistic, for the most part, in the most old skool clichéd gang fashion. Like something from a 70s movie like The Warriors or Mad Max perhaps. Their humanity was not really acknowledged by the author.

The racism may very well have been unintentional, and I am not saying the author is personally racist. But I found his book to be racist and expressed joyful detail in tearing apart zombies. Once I noticed it, I felt that subtly, the Asian zombies got it worse than the others. I'm sure it was a...coincidence. ( )
  David_David_Katzman | Mar 26, 2017 |
See? Zombies, superheroes, and zombie superheroes.
  JudyGibson | Jul 17, 2016 |
I like superheroes and I like zombies – a book that combined the two seemed like a good fit for me. Unfortunately, I had some issues with Ex-Heroes, to the point that I ended up taking a multi-week break from it part of the way through. Had this been a library checkout rather than a purchase, I probably would have DNFed it.

The plot was fairly simple but took such a long time to get going that I feel like almost any synopsis I might write would give too much away. I will say that the basic setup should be familiar to any fan of zombie apocalypse stories: a group of survivors tries to continue surviving, hopefully find a cure, and maybe even forge something like a normal and fear-free existence. This particular group of survivors (really, enough people to count as a little town) just happens to be guarded by a few surviving superheroes.

One of those superheroes is St. George, a guy who can breathe fire and glide for a long enough distance that it looks like he can fly and who, more importantly, is completely invulnerable. Then there's Gorgon, a man whose gaze can suck the energy out of people and temporarily give him greater power. Cerberus is the name given both to an enormous armed mecha and to the woman who operates it. Zzzap is a man in a wheelchair who can transform into a flying being made out of energy. Stealth is mysterious, athletic, and coldly cerebral.

Here's the good: I really did enjoy the combination of zombies and superheroes. Clines didn't exactly do anything new with those aspects – I've already mentioned the familiarity of the zombie apocalypse setup, and I could think of Marvel or DC equivalents for several of the superheroes. St. George was a fire-breathing Superman. Stealth was a female Batman without the childhood tragedy (which, considering St. George's attraction to her, makes this very nearly Superman/Batman slash fic). Cerberus could be seen as a female Iron Man. Even the way the story was told was familiar: Clines alternated between the post-apocalyptic present and brief flashbacks that showed either the various superheroes' origin stories or the early days of the zombie apocalypse.

Although the individual components were familiar, the way Clines combined them resulted in some interesting moments and revelations that almost made me want to continue reading/listening to this series. The second book, Ex-Patriots, is part of Audible's current “2 for 1 credit” sale, and I'm tempted. Jay Snyder did a great job with the male voices and POV parts, although there were times when his “superhero” voice clashed with certain lines. (I just googled Snyder and learned that he voiced Descendants of Darkness's Tsuzuki. Fangirl moment.) Khristine Hvam also did a great job with the female voices and POV parts. I wouldn't mind listening to another audiobook voiced by the two of them together, and part of me does want to know what happens next in this series, but...

Okay, now for the negatives. Clines' superheroes were regular people who, one way or another, ended up becoming superheroes and, well, some of them weren't very heroic. There was Gorgon and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Maxwell Hale and his extremely flexible ideas of right and wrong, and pretty much everybody's objectification of Stealth.

Speaking of Stealth, she could probably count as an example of an asexual character (out of curiosity, she'd tried sex with both men and women but couldn't understand the appeal). She was, however, the kind of asexual stereotype I hate, a completely emotionally distant block of ice who only cared whether those around her were useful or not. As much as I disliked her, the way male characters tended to focus on her breasts and catalog all her curves bothered the heck out of me, because I knew that, had she been able to peek into those characters' minds, she'd have been horrified. This was a woman who was so averse to the idea of others noticing her physical attractiveness more than anything else about her that she almost always shrouded herself in a full-length cloak.

Now for the part of Ex-Heroes that bothered me so much that I had to take a multi-week audiobook break. The book took place in L.A., and several of the characters liked to brag about the famous zombified people they'd managed to take out. During one particular bragging session, someone mentioned Maxwell Hale, the superhero who'd ended up becoming a zombie because he'd tried to rape a zombified Jessica Alba. It was just a small moment, and yet it managed to kill nearly all of my enthusiasm for the book. So much about it repulsed me. First, that it happened, period. Second, that a superhero (often shortened to “hero”) did this. Third, that the zombie was a real person rather than some random nameless zombie. Fourth, that the comment seemed to be pointless, a throwaway moment meant as a bit of dark humor but not really important to the story as a whole.

While I would argue that the specific details of the incident that resulted in Hale being turned into a zombie were unnecessary, unfortunately, Hale did show up again later in the book. Readers were treated to a section from his POV, which was about as repugnant as I would have expected it to be. Yes, another character did say that what he tried to do to zombie Jessica Alba was rape. I don't think the other superheroes particularly liked him, and I'm sure Clines meant for him to be viewed as utterly vile. That said, there were other ways Clines could have established Hale as awful and unlikable.

Considering how much I enjyed Clines' 14, Ex-Heroes was disappointing.

Rating Note:

I struggled with how to rate this, because on the one hand I disliked parts of this book enough that I almost DNFed it, and on the other hand it was an interesting enough mashup that part of me is tempted to read more. In the end, I decided that although the rape aspects were terrible (and I just remembered, looking through my notes, that there was another zombie rape mentioned besides the one with Hale and Jessica Alba, WTF Clines?), the overall story still had some good moments. So, 2 stars.

(Original review, with read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.) ( )
  Familiar_Diversions | Feb 27, 2016 |
I'm still looking for a breakthrough super-hero novel. This one was fast-paced, and I like the premise, but it felt pointless. When I got to the end, I wondered why I'd read it. The characters didn't grow or develop. Their powers and relationships were bland. As usual in these types of books and films, the guys had all the awesome powers, and the female super-heroes were lame in comparison, for no justifiable reason. The big bad guy was dumb and straightforward, just a gang thug with power. There was practically no suspense for me, since the super-heroes were clearly powerful enough to defeat the bad guy with ease. And they did. The end. Shrug. ( )
1 vote Abby_Goldsmith | Feb 10, 2016 |
As a life-long superhero/comic book fan and a recent zombie story convert, I had a lot of fun reading this book. It may sound like a hokey mash-up but Clines did a really good job of telling a decent story that never goes too far out to left field. ( )
  cvalin | Jan 24, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter Clinesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bartlett, JonathanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hvam, KhristineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Snyder, JayNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Katie had been on the walls of the Mount for two hours, leaning against the Earth, when St. George dropped out of the sky wearing a leather flight jacket.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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I'm pretty sure you already know who I am. As for everyone else... I don't think there are enough people left to make a secret identity worth the effort.
Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes. Vigilantes. Crusaders for justice, using their superhuman abilites to make Los Angeles a better place.

Then the plague of living death spread around the globe. Despite the best efforts of the superheroes, the police, and the military, the hungry corpses rose up and overwhelmed the country. The population was decimated, heroes fell, and the city of angels was left a desolate zombie wasteland like so many others.

Now, a year later, the Mighty Dragon and his companions must overcome their differences and recover from their own scars to protect the thousands of survivors sheltered in their film studio-turned-fortress, the Mount. The heroes lead teams out to scavenge supplies, keep the peace within the walls of their home, and try to be the symbols the survivors so desperately need.

For while the ex-humans walk the streets night and day, they are not the only threat left in the world, and the people of the Mount are not the only survivors left in Los Angeles. Across the city, another group has grown and gained power.

And they are not heroes.

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In a Los Angeles ravaged by a zombie plague, a group of former superheroes protect the survivors.

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