Superheroes and Zombies in the same place! Awesome! Why did no one else think of this?
That is how Peter Clines first book in his Ex-Heroes series was described on the book jacket and it grabbed my attention. I am not a true fan of the risen dead or of caped crusaders but putting them into one pulp style story really appealed to me. I am not alone. The internet is full of glowing reviews of this book which, as normal for me, I only read after finishing the book which I did this week.
The concept behind Ex-Heroes is brilliant in its simplicity. It can be summed up as: superheroes surviving in post-apocalyptic zombie infested Los Angeles. Traditional shuffle and eat brains types. It’s been two years since the plague of the undead has spread across the globe, killing basically everyone and resulting in the collapse of civilization. In that time a fortress has been established on the premises of an old film studio and the survivors exisit. The heroes, under the command of ‘Stealth’, go out on scavenging runs to keep the Mount supplied. Zombies, or ex-humans as they’re called, are an ever-present danger but deep in the city stirs a greater threat to the residents of the Mount.
What is a superhero novel without heroes. I will not go into details but characters such as Stealth, Might Dragon, Zzzap, Gorgon and so on can all be linked to more famous versions of themselves. The setting makes for another great point. The ‘Moun’t is a clever construction, making use of the natural fortifications of a film studio and augmenting them further for defensibility. The best part of L.A. is all the pop culture references from Doctor Who to It’s A Wonderful Life. The regular humans compare ex-celebrities they have killed, injecting some levity.
Ex-Heroes is told in past and present tense, in first- and third-person respectively. The past tense comes from multiple first-person perspectives, in some cases detailing the origins of the heroes and in others detailing the early stages of the zombie outbreak. The first-person past tense is much stronger than the third-person present tense, infusing the heroes with a sense of individuality. The plot is lean and fast paced. The action is over the top, just as you would hope for when you pit super powered vigilantes against the carnivorous Undead. There is plenty of carnage to go around in any case. The ex-virus, from its the origin to the symptoms – the virus does not kill you; but it does revive you.
This is a superb pulp novel and I have already got my hands on the second one (there are four in total at the moment) as I want to see where it goes. Its a fun read and if you like those genre’s go and get it!
On a side note I think that adapting USEME Zombie Dawn to this setting would be fairly easy. Working up some rules mechanics for the super heroes and also the effects of this.