Publisher: Permuted Press
Publication Year: 2010
I discovered this fun little super hero/zombie mash up novel when author Peter Clines was interviewed on the Pod of Horror podcast. His inspiration sprang from his disappointment with the Marvel Zombies series of graphic novels. He didn’t like the idea of the heroes becoming zombies but instead wanted to see them fighting the undead hoards, which is exactly what we get here.
The setting is Los Angeles, a year or so after the dead (called Exes, as in ex-humans) have started getting back up and chowing down on anything that moves. The streets are empty for the most part, but ironically it’s harder than ever to get a taxi. The last outpost of civilization is The Mount, a movie studio converted to house the human and super human survivors of the zombie apocalypse.
The surviving heroes continue to do what superheroes do best: protect the innocent. Led by Stealth, a gorgeous and ingenious ninja who insists on maintaining her secret identity even after the collapse of society, the heroes have turned their fortified shelter into a community as best they can. Electricity is provided by Zzap, a staggeringly powerful man who can convert himself into pure energy. Gorgon, who can drain a person’s life energy with a glance and add it to his own strength, is acting as constable and not all of the survivors like the idea of being policed by super humans. St. George (a.k.a. The Dragon), a nearly indestructible fire-breathing man often leads scavenger parties into the zombie-infested city, sometimes accompanied by Cerberus and her state-of-the-art battle armor.
As any zombie aficionado will tell you, during the zombie apocalypse you have just as much to fear from the living as you do the dead. A local street gang called The Seventeens has also managed to survive and they see the citizens of The Mount as competition for the city’s dwindling resources. The gang’s leader also has a secret for controlling the Exes, whose numbers include a few members of the super human community who died during the conflict. The book is liberally peppered with flashbacks, providing back story on most of the main characters as well as an interesting and new take on how the whole zombie plague gets started.
Finding a new angle on a genre as done to death as zombies is quite a feat, but Clines pulls it off. Whether your secret fantasies involve gnawing on human flesh or leaping tall buildings in a single bound, this will be the book for you. Writing super humans who seem human sounds easier than it is, but Dragon, Gorgon, Stealth, and the other protectors of The Mount are real enough, despite the capes and tights. The book is nicely paced and the climax is magnificently over the top. I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel Ex-Patriots which, according Clines’ Facebook postings, has already been turned in to the publisher and is due in Summer of 2011.