This is a book review by Beth Cato. It’s meant to be a companion for her guest blog from yesterday: A Confession Regarding Zombies. Go ahead and read it first if you haven’t already.
Superheroes, post-apocalypse and zombies. It’s either bound to be a horrid mash-up worthy of midnight cable, or something seriously awesome. I was especially critical because I’m a reluctant reader of zombie fiction. Zombies squick me, big time. But I was gifted with an Advanced Reader Copy of Ex-Heroes from LibraryThing Early Reviewers, and I was willing to give it a try.
I was very pleasantly surprised.
Here’s the book’s summary:
The first in a spectacularly genre-mashing adventure series that pits a small group of courageous, flawed, terrified superheroes against hordes of undead.
Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes, using their superhuman abilities to make Los Angeles a better place.
Then the plague of living death spread around the globe. Now, a year later, the heroes struggle to overcome their differences and recover from their own scars as they protect the thousands of survivors huddled in their film-studio-turned-fortress, the Mount.
But the hungry ex-humans are not the only threat the survivors face. Across the city, another group has grown and gained power.
I love a good superhero story. Sometimes, however, it doesn’t translate well to novels. Post apocalypse stories? I love’em to bits because I’m morbid like that. The zombies were my big concern as I approached the book. I told myself, “If it’s bad, I don’t have to finish it.”
I finished it, no problem.
Clines has created a devastated, incredible world here. His cast of superheroes varies widely as far as powers and personalities, and while they do follow the tropes of the genre, they are all vivid and absolutely believable. Even more impressive, he skips from perspective to perspective and between the past and the current apocalyptic environment, and manages to do so in a way that’s not confusing at all. The heroes all speak in voices that are that distinct.
The setting itself is another wow factor. I’m a native Californian but only have a very basic understanding of where things are located around LA. Gauging from this book, Clines KNOWS this place. He uses the movie studios, the streets, and shows how it’s all become a battleground. It feels firmly grounded in reality. My only wish is that the front of the book included a map.
Then there are the zombies. They are as nasty and sad as one would expect. The shambling undead have taken over the world. It’s really chilling, though, when Clines breaks down the statistic to show how many zombies are staggering around LA, even after all the efforts the heroes have taken to combat them. Of course, the heroes aren’t up against the zombies alone. Their big rivals in town are the Seventeen gang, and the thugs are no longer content with peddling drugs and spraying graffiti–no, they want supplies, and they want the superhero Gorgon dead.
Again, as a Californian, this really resonated with me–I could see a gang taking over in a vacuum of power like this. It’s really weird to say, “This superhero zombie apocalypse novel won me over with its realism,” but it’s the truth. I went in with low expectations and now I really want to read onward in the series.[I received an ARC of the book through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. Modifed version of this review previously published on 50bookchallenge on LiveJournal, LibraryThing, and Goodreads.]
Beth Cato’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER, a steampunk fantasy novel from Harper Voyager. Her short fiction is in InterGalactic Medicine Show, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat.