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Ex-Heroes: A Novel Paperback – February 26, 2013
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Q&A with Peter Clines
Q. You grew up in Stephen King territory in Maine, yes? Did that make you into a zombie fan at an early age?
A. Well, I was at the southern edges of Mr. King’s fallout zone. It’s a little town called Cape Neddick, a little tourist place on the coast, and someone told me once that the population was ten times bigger in the summer than in the winter. And to be honest, I was terrified of everything as a kid. Land of the Lost gave me nightmares. Heck, there was an episode of Fantasy Island that gave me nightmares. I was right there when King’s career really exploded, but his books terrified me. I finally worked up my courage to read one of his short stories, “The Boogeyman,” when I was twelve or so, and to this day I can’t sleep with the closet door open. The original Ghost Rider comics were my first tentative steps into horror, and even some of those freaked me out. My love of the genre really blossomed in college.
Q. Have you always wanted to be a writer?
A. Well, to quote George Carlin, not in the womb, but right after that . . . yeah. I can remember making scenes with my Star Wars figures and adjusting them all each night as their story progressed. In third grade I hand-wrote a “novel” that I called Lizard Men from the Center of the Earth, which was about . . . well, guess. Once I discovered my mom’s old Smith-Corona typewriter it was all over. I spent all my free time writing comic books and some truly awful Boba Fett fan fiction before there was such a term. I even made some early attempts at novels. One of the great tragedies of American literature is that our garage flooded in high school and all of that was destroyed. (It’s not really a tragedy . . .)
Q. It sounds like you were—no offense—kind of a comic geek when you were a kid?
A. When I was a kid, yeah. And a teenager. And a college student. To be honest, writing comic books was my big goal when I was little. My first rejection letters are from Jim Shooter—then Marvel’s editor in chief—because I would send him some of those (in retrospect) really God-awful stories every other month. With cover art. This is back when I was maybe ten or eleven. He was amazingly polite to a stupid kid. On one level, Ex-Heroes was my chance to finally write the kind of heroes I grew up with.
Q. Do you have a favorite superhero?
A. I’m a long-time Spider-Man fan. I started collecting The Amazing Spider-Man when I was about nine or ten and kept with it for years. I’ve got one of those big longboxes just filled with issues. I finally got so frustrated, though, with Marvel’s big “Civil War” promotion, and especially how they resolved it. When Spider-Man made a deal with the devil to erase half his life, including his wife and best friend . . . well, I was done.
Q. It sounds like you’re not really interested in comics now, though. What do you think about mainstream comics these days?
A. Tough question. I am a bit disillusioned with the big two comic publishers. To be clear, I don’t think there’s a problem with using the medium of comics to tell more dramatic, adult-themed stories. The Sandman, The Walking Dead, Unknown Soldier—these are all fantastic stories by great writers. My problem is when this sort of storytelling gets pushed onto characters like Spider-Man or Superman or Captain America, because “dramatic” becomes shorthand for “really messed up.” I think it detracts from these classic characters to push them into molds they weren’t meant to fill, and those stories tend to just come across as pointless melodrama. Characters have six-page soliloquies about the nature of heroism rather than just doing something heroic. I’ve seen people try to do “realistic” stories with the Hulk . . . a character who got his powers by standing next to a nuclear bomb when it went off. These elements can be a nice polish on a story, but there’s also a point where they have no business being used. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the industry has been struggling so much since this type of storytelling became the norm.
Q. When you moved to California you ended up working in the film industry for almost fifteen years. What kind of work did you do there?
A. I was a property master—the person who deals with hand props—on a lot of television shows and movies. I worked on a lot of cult things like one of the Beastmaster movies, Veronica Mars, and a bunch of lesser-known stuff. I’m actually the murderer in Psycho Beach Party for most of the movie. I prop-mastered Helen Mirren’s directorial debut, and she told me I looked like the type of person who should be sitting on the porch of a southern plantation writing novels.Also, I was writing scripts on the side. People looked at some of my feature scripts and television episodes, and I made the final round in a bunch of screenplay contests. All this industry experience led to a job writing articles for Creative Screenwriting magazine, which I did for several years. I interviewed George Romero, Kevin Smith, Sylvester Stallone, Orci & Kurtzman, and dozens and dozens of other writers and directors.
“I was completely floored by this book’s ingenuity and charm...exemplifies the real meaning of a page-turner.” —Fantasy Book Critic
“I loved this pop culture-infused tale of shamed superheroes struggling to survive a zombie apocalypse in the ruins of Hollywood. It's The Avengers meets The Walking Dead with a large order of epic served on the side.”
—Ernest Cline, New York Times bestselling author of Ready Player One
“Zombies? Check. Superheroes? Check. Awesome? Check. Ex-Heroes has it all. You’re in for a treat!”
—Mira Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Feed
“A novel that will take you on a wild and heart-warming ride...[A] creative zombie story, with in-depth characters, and filled with humor, action, and gruesome fight scenes…the final clash made my heart race in ways seldom accomplished by a book.”
- Publisher : Crown; Reprint edition (February 26, 2013)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0804136572
- ISBN-13 : 978-0804136570
- Item Weight : 9.1 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.18 x 0.73 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #245,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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I was not disappointed. The story centers around a world that's rapidly changing, people are suddenly so much more than just people, but with the gift of superheroes there is always a price, only this one is more than anyone wanted to pay.
The novel, while in some ways very typical of a zombie genre book, full of gore and violence and all those things, had some twists that were utterly shocking, things that caught me completely off guard. It also took the time to explain the why. As an avid reader and movie-goer, the one thing I have always hated about theme movies and books is that no one ever takes the time to ask the big question, and it's never explored. You have heroes. You have zombies. But unless it's x-men or a radioactive spider or the rare Resident Evil series, no one ever takes the time to explain not only the why but the how. This book does not fail in that regard. It offers insightful history and explanations, and does so in such a mind blowing way.
Ex-Heroes melds two disparate genres, superhero and zombie apocalypse, and makes them work together in an oddly harmonious way. The superheroes are created by a variety of things like toxic spills or magic with abilities like super strength, breathing fire, speedy healing, and/or flight. These characters follow the same archetypes of famous heroes. For instance, St. George is clearly the overpowered boyscout Superman with slightly different abilities (breathing fire instead of laser eyes). Stealth is similar to Batman with her abilities and more cynical worldview. Chapters are labeled Then from before the apocalypse and Now. St. George is the main character, but each hero gets their own chapter Then chapter and, if still alive, a Now chapter. Then, each hero is fighting crime on a fairly small scale and Now, they are maintaining The Mount and merely surviving.
The zombies (or exes) are pretty standard fare. They are the animated unded. The disease is a bit different. It's a virus that mimics white blood cells thus replicating quickly in the body. It's highly infectious through bodily fluids and survives a long time outside of its host, making dead exes and even smears of blood just as dangerous. This disease isn't fatal and only takes hold after death. The reason why people usually die after a bite is that other diseases piggyback on the zombie disease, making it a toxic mix of every other disease every other person in the line of infection had. I'm not honestly sure how sound the science is, but the concept is intriguing. Further, zombified heroes retain their abilities and create havoc when an uber-zombie with the ability to control other exes has a grudge against the heroes.
Ex-Heroes has a fast pace and interesting stories in the past and present to get to know each hero a little bit along the way. The beginning just throws you into the world and you start to tread water a couple chapters in. My only criticism is in some of the heroes' narratives. Stealth is a beautiful woman in a revealing outfit and she's disgustingly objectified by quite a few of the male heroes. Once is showing a perspective and doing it multiple times just seems immature of the author and the characters. Stealth herself seems more like a robot than a person as if she had to be so different than her appearance to be seen as a legitimate hero. Other than that, I enjoyed the twists and turns. I'm planning to continue the series and I hope the problems I have resolve as the characters get more developed.
The basic premise is that an infection broke out in Los Angeles that kills people and then reanimates their bodies. The infection spreads and become global. Superheroes are relatively new to the world, and the few that exist work to at first contain the infection, then to save as many people as they could. The heroes in Los Angeles turn to Paramount Studios with its high walls, clean it out, and make it a home for a few thousand people. Going out on scavaging runs with regular human survivors, they try to find more survivors and supplies. Besides the walking dead, they also get attacked occasionally by survivors of a local gang called the South Seventeens. The drama explodes when the S.S. turn out to be more dangerous than they ever could have imagined.
Told in a combination of flashbacks and present-day action, the story flows from the first page to the very last. Imagery is vivid and characters feel real. While having super-powered people, the story never really feels like a typical comic book. While having zombies, it never feels like a typical horror book. Instead, it's a gripping piece of fiction that grabs on and doesn't let go.
I heartily recommend this book!
Top reviews from other countries
So when I was looking to read a new book having just read "Blackjack Villain" which is a great superhuman style novel, I looked at EX Heroes.
I was skeptical, being so sick of zombies, but was pleasantly surprised by the book and found I couldn't put it down after a while.
The characters are great, obviously taking pages from famous superheroes, but the author knows this and plays it to his strength, making many popular culture references that we as readers know of. So I found myself smiling on these occasions. Perhaps a bit more fleshing out needed in terms of reasoning for their thoughts and feelings...but that will likely come with later novels...
Found the plot gripping and wanted to know more about what drives the characters. So all in all I would say very well written and successful!
Hope to enjoy the rest of the series as much!
I submit that you can now find anything on Amazon.
A friend recommended this for nearly a year as I blithely ignored his pleas to read it.
Eventually I read it out of poiteness , and immediatly bought the rest. This sounds silly. Its Superheroes vs zombies.
The superheoes came first then the zombies. and some zombies are zombie superheroes.
Its all very well brought togehter - theres no haphazard weldign of genres here - its a coherent excellent storyline bringing togther one of the best written zombie and superheroe stories together.
If you could only read one superhero or one zombie story ever again - you better make it this one.
It's not at all heavy and the emphasis is on the heroes but then in a world where they exist why wouldn't it be.
I have read other forays into the zombie survivor scenario - Adrians Undead Diary etc - and enjoyed the 'one man can make a difference' attitude but this gives us the opportunity to see what difference superheroes would make.
Buy it - you'll really enjoy it!!