Several times in the past, I have expressed my opinion that Craig DiLouie and Patrick D’Orazioset the standard for 2011 zombie novels. While I have spent the year reading some fabulous apocalyptic stories about the undead, none of them achieved the caliber of Tooth and Nail and The Dark Trilogy…until now.
Of course I enjoyed Ex-Heroes…with a mix of super-heroes and zombies, it was a nice change of pace: zombies are known as “exes,” as in ex-living, and also include super-hero zombies, which brings new horrors to the apocalypse scenario. Ex-Patriots was an excellent follow-up, introducing new super-heroes, a new super-villain, and a military factor, but you have to read Ex-Heroes to appreciate the depth of the characters, and everything the survivors at The Mount have been through, in order to understand what a severe clusterfuck they face in Ex-Patriots. Despite having consolidated with the remaining Seventeens, the Mount survivors are struggling to build up their defenses, and along comes a new threat in the disguise of “help.”
Peter Clines continues to use his “Then” and “Now” formula, moving forward and backward in time to provide insight for each of the characters, without relying on specific dates. This has proved yet again to be a great way to propel the story forward, and avoid spoilers within the plot. The powers and origins of the heroes and villains remain unique and creative, and they are definitely not comic book rip-offs.
Instead of just inventing characters, and writing the story around them, Clines has constructed an entire alternate world with many of the same rules that apply to ours. Rather than take artistic liberties, and just make random stuff up, Clines has done some extensive research into every aspect of Ex-Patriots, as noted in his afterword.
While I found Ex-Patriots to be somewhat typical of an apocalypse scenario — survivors find a refuge, build up defenses, and then the military tries to take over after most of the work has been done — Clines introduces some fabulous new characters. Captain Freedom is a super, but he is a soldier first, and he feels obligated to follow his orders, regardless of who is giving the commands; however, Freedom is also a very moral man, and going against his beliefs takes its toll on him , both physically and mentally. The Driver is definitely my favorite, trying to do his best with his gift, despite lacking the confidence of St. George, or the foresight of Stealth. Even the bad guys are especially cool, holding their own with the heroes, rather than merely appearing as accessories to the storyline. Unfortunately for Cerberus, the bad guys appear to have a personal vendetta against her.
Last but not least, Zzzap/Barry will blow fans away with the confessions he makes to other characters about his abilities…what we saw in Ex-Heroes was just the tip of the iceberg.
If Peter Clines continues with the writing style and passion that he has shown in his first two novels, I think the last book in the trilogy should be spectacular.