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Peter Clines
Del Rey, 330 pages

Peter Clines
Peter Clines grew up in Maine and started writing at the age of eight with his first epic novel, Lizard Men From The Center of The Earth (unreleased). He made his first writing sale at age seventeen to a local newspaper. He is the writer of countless film articles, several short stories, The Junkie Quatrain, the rarely-read The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe and the poorly-named website Writer on Writing. He currently lives and writes somewhere in southern California.

Peter Clines Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

'So, just like there's real magic, there's real evil. Not Enron-Exxon-Halliburton incidents that disgust you with their greed and callousness. I mean real evil. The stuff that burns your eyes to look at.'
Ex-Heroes begins an on-going sequence of cross-genre novels, mixing the ever popular theme of superheroes with a zombie apocalypse. Both subjects have produced some of the more enduring and successful entertainment of recent years. So in theory, crossing the two worlds is a very smart move -- and long term might produce a smarter movie, or TV show -- providing the unique qualities of both are not lost in the process. The back cover blurb describes this work as being The Avengers meets The Walking Dead, but is it a spandex spectacular, or just more rotting meat?

The good news is that from the start it's clear that Peter Clines knows exactly what he wants to do with his creations, and how to map that journey. The story is loosely divided into present time scenes labelled NOW, punctuated with occasional flashbacks unsurprisingly called THEN. It's a simple but effective way of making sure that the reader always knows when one is, in time. The writing style is fast-paced and punchy as Solomon Grundy with a migraine, with well placed breathers most often used for useful exposition. The premise is that the apocalypse has already happened, most of the world is trashed, and what we're shown concerns a small community of survivors, holed up in the now fortified Paramount Studios. Guarding them from the millions of zombies wandering around outside the compound are the remaining superheroes, whose noble numbers include a cut-price fire-breathing Superman named St. George, Gorgon the life energy vampire, Zzzap who is a living man-sized star, Cerberus the female answer to Iron Man, Regenerator, a virtually immortal doctor who used to have the power to cure with his touch, and the enigmatic Stealth. The leader of this bedraggled pack, Stealth is a former model who put me in mind of a cross between Black Widow, Bullseye, and Aeryn Sun from Farscape. In addition to scavenging a living from a devastated city, the Ex-Heroes group also have to contend with a local gang, led by a gigantic thug made super-powered, due to a corruption of what made the zombies. Known as PZ, which is short for patient zero. He rules a gang called The Seventeens, including a couple of zombified Ex-Heroes whose super powers are still functional. Naturally, PZ has an all consuming hatred of Gorgon, his pre-apocalypse nemesis, which eventually leads to all out war between the factions.

I found lots to like in this work. The main characters, which so easily could've been poor knock-offs, instead emerge as interesting people in their own right. Their range of powers, while not original, are at least depicted in a fresh manner. Also, and crucially in my estimation, the super humans never lose touch with their humanity. The action is fast paced, often brutal, but never to the detriment of the plot. Peter Clines understands that first and foremost he has to tell a gripping story, and in this he succeeds. What I didn't like so much was that in a supposedly global pandemic, we get to learn almost nothing of life outside of Hollywood, let alone the wider world. I felt that a few hints could've been given without the risk of losing focus. On the other hand, perhaps the author was offering a tongue-in-cheek suggestion that, even when the entire world has fallen apart, American society still wants to fight among itself. However, leaving this minor niggle aside, Ex-Heroes is a highly enjoyable work which culminates in a satisfying manner, yet also leaves questions unanswered and much potential for further adventures. Sitting somewhere between Tim Waggoner's Nekropolis Archives and the Wild Cards series, it is a worthy addition to any collection of superhero fiction.

Copyright © 2014 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at

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