Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Ex-Heroes, Book 5 - Ex-Isle

The easiest way to describe this series to someone is simply to say, it's "Avengers vs. Walking Dead."  Simply put, this series tells the story of a zombie-infested world that has superheroes. And there can be no doubt, Peter Clines tells a darned good apocalyptic-superhero-zombie tale.

Ex-Isle is the fifth book in this series, and while it starts off just a bit slow, once it gets going, it draws you in and doesn't let go (pretty much like the previous four books).  In this installment, St. George (formerly the Mighty Dragon), Zzzap, and Corpse Girl see the spotlight as they head out into the Pacific Ocean to follow-up on a possible group of survivors who have created a man-made island out of ships; meanwhile, Cerebus and the Driver, along with some of the Unbreakables, fill in a sub-plot in a facility outside of the Mount (which is an abandoned movie studio and back lot that the heroes have walled and created a safe-zone for survivors) known as "Eden," where they are trying to create a garden to grow food for the increasing number of survivors.  But, as with any drama, nothing and no one is safe, and nothing is ever as it appears.

Let's start with the main plot - Cline keeps things fresh by taking us out into the Pacific to a "isle" that is nothing more than a cluster of ships - a cruise ship, a tanker, some yachts, and a few other boats, all cobbled together to create a living space for these survivors.  (No, Kevin Costner was not there, and if you don't get the reference - look it up!)  Zzzap (who I would say is sort of an amalgam of Johnny Thunder and his Thunderbolt) happens upon it as he returns to Los Angeles from his scouting trips, searching for other survivors in the world.  It takes some convincing, but Stealth (the leader of this group of survivors) agrees to let Zzzap go back and offer assistance, along with St. George (the Superman prototype of this world) and Corpse Girl (who is not a zombie, or an "ex" as they are called in this series - what she really is...well, that would be telling).  The three are not met with welcome arms, and, in fact, after a very embarrassing inspection, they are locked in a cage (and Corpse Girl is literally ripped in half - but that doesn't mean that's the last we see of her).  All because the citizens of this isle believe their leader, Maleko (an underwater super) when he tells them this isn't really Might Dragon, because he died when the government nuked Los Angeles!  (Say what?  Could this be another mind-control/dream sequence like in one of the previous books?)  The isle has its secrets, as does Maleko, and it's a battle royale in the end, when Maleko finds out that not everyone under his thumb can be trusted!

Moving over to that subplot, Danielle, who used to be the one inside the Cerebus battle suit, has to face the world outside while repairs are being done to the suit (which was damaged nearly beyond repair in the last book).  Cesar, who keeps insisting everyone call him "Driver," is the only one now that can work Cerebus, since he is able to merge with any machine and basically become the machine.  Along with the military supersoldiers known as the Unbreakables, they head up to Eden, where farmers and workers are trying to create a garden to grow the necessary food to feed the population of the Mount.  But something is not right.  The military men are taking more than their fair share, and they are slowly taking control of the weapons and ammunition.  Are they planning a coup?  Or is it something worse?  And who will stand by who when the south fence falls and the place is swarmed by, make that ex-humans, ready to feast on flesh.  And what will happen when Danielle must face off against an ex without her Cerebus suit to protect her!?  Let's just say that before the wall is put back up and the place restored, one of our main characters will have a very suspicious injury on their arm...

As with the prior books, Cline includes some flashbacks periodically throughout the story - each one giving some back story to some of the characters at play (or, even a character who does not otherwise feature in the book, yet his story has an impact).  Cline continues to build a world of characters that are believable (even if some of them do have unbelievable superpowers) and likable, and his soap opera storytelling leaves you wanting for more when you reach the last page.

Honestly, I never expected this series to continue into five books (heck, I was surprised when a second book came out, as I figured Ex-Heroes was just a one-time gimmick).  But, I'm glad Cline has kept it going, and at this point, he better keep churning these out, as I want to see more - so many characters, superpowered and not, that all need attention and have stories to tell.  I just hope Cline tells them all!

RATING:  9 repeated references to Lost out of 10 for keeping the idea of superheroes as the good guys alive and well (even if it is in a book about people who are dead and not-so-well).

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