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Monday, January 13, 2014

Ex-Purgatory by Peter Clines (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website 
Order the book HERE 
Read Fantasy Book Critic Interview with Peter Clines 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Ex-Heroes 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Ex-Patriots 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Ex-Communication 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of The Junkie Quatrain 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of 14 
Read I See Dead People by Peter Clines (Guest Post) 

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Peter Clines was born and brought up in Maine, he moved to California when he grew up and worked in Hollywood for a number of years. He has also been a prop master for several movies and TV shows. He has published several pieces of short fiction and countless articles on the film and television industry, as well as the recent novel 14, named best sci-fi novel of 2012 by Audible.com and voted one of the best horror novels of 2012 on Goodreads and Bloody Disgusting.

He has previously written reviews for the Cinema Blend website and for the Creative Screenwriting magazine as well interviewed many famous film personas such as Frank Darabont, Paul Haggis, Kevin Smith, George Romero, Akiva Goldsman, David Goyer, Mark Herman, Nora Ephron among many others. He currently lives in Southern California.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: When he’s awake, George Bailey is just an ordinary man. Five days a week he coaxes his old Hyundai to life, curses the Los Angeles traffic, and clocks in at his job as a handyman at the local college. But when he sleeps, George dreams of something more.

George dreams of flying. He dreams of fighting monsters. He dreams of a man made of pure lightning, an armored robot, a giant in an army uniform, a beautiful woman who moves like a ninja.

Then one day as he’s walking from one fix-it job to the next, a pale girl in a wheelchair tells George of another world, one in which civilization fell to a plague that animates the dead…and in which George is no longer a glorified janitor, but one of humanity’s last heroes.

Her tale sounds like madness, of course. But as George’s dreams and his waking life begin bleeding together, he starts to wonder—which is the real world, and which is just fantasy? 

FORMAT/INFO: Ex-Purgatory is 352 pages long divided over a prologue, thirty-six numbered/titled chapters, and two epilogues. All chapters are either divided into “Then” or “Now” sections. Narration is in the first-person for all “Then” chapters and in third person for all the “Now” sections. The POV's both first person and third person are via George Bailey (St. George), Madelyn Sorenson, Danielle, Stealth, Captain John Carter Freedom, Zzzap (Barry Burke), and Christian N. Ex-Purgatory has a self-contained plot and is the fourth book in the Ex series. Readers can read this book without having read the previous ones but there as with the last book, there are some significant spoilers for the preceding titles.

Ex-Purgatory will be published in paperback and e-book format on January 14, 2014 via Broadway Paperbacks (Crown Publishing) in the US. Del Rey UK will be releasing it in paperback and e-book form (see cover below) on January 16, 2014 in the UK. US Cover art is provided by Jonathan Bartlett.

CLASSIFICATION: Mixing zombies with superheroes in a desolate world, Peter ClinesEx series is George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead crossed with The Avengers (Marvel). 



ANALYSIS: Peter Clines has to be admired, after three titles in the Ex series, he still knows how to keep this series fresh. I was a little skeptical as to how he would go ahead with this story considering the events of the last book but the blurb of the book was simply irresistible. It seemed to be taking the series in a new direction and I was curious to see where the author was taking the series and characters.

With this fourth volume, we begin in a world wherein George Bailey (St. George/The Mighty Dragon) is a simple janitor and not the superhero we know him to be. He has no inkling of his other life wherein we have met him and many others in a world overrun by zombies or Ex-humans as they are known. This world however has no such apocalypse happening to it, but there's a girl who call herself Madelyn Sorenson and sort of remembers a different world.

Madelyn frequently reminds George that this is not the world they are supposed to be in and this might be an alternate reality, which they need to get out of. Soon George finds out that there are others like Stealth, Zzzap, Freedom and Danielle (Cerebrus) who are also trapped in with him. What happens next and what is actually happening is the meat of the plot and the way they discover it is the icing on the cake for the readers. The author plants several nods to various famous SF works and several episodes from some epic SF shows in this one, and the story unfolds like a classical mystery, which adds to heightened tension throughout the story.

The basic story follows in the same “then” and “now” patterns of the previous books. However this book focuses almost exclusively on George Bailey. While there are other characters who get screen time from time to time. George gets about 90-95% of the POV time and this basically streamlines the story. Another plus point of this story is that we get a lot of major revelations about Stealth and her background. Namely that we get to know her real name, find out about her father and with this move, I believe the author connects his Ex-Series to his Junkie Quatrain short stories (though more information will have to come from the author as to how it all ties in). I happened to really enjoy this link-up and I believe it will be of special interest to regular readers of Peter’s work.

The plot pace and the twists are top-notch and keep the reader completely hooked onto the story. The author has to be commended for keeping this series fresh by taking the series in directions that are very unpredictable. Beginning with the second book, the author explored the military aspect of the world, the third book focussed on magic, religion and the afterlife and this one is even more intriguing from a plot perspective. Plus the story climax along with all the revelations definitely help in blowing the reader’s minds and kudos to the author for thinking up this slick story.

How good/effective the final revelations are, will depend on each reader for gauging them. For me the revelation of the main villain was a bit anti-climatic, as the explanation given, seemed a bit out of the rabbit's hat. What I mean, is that the author seemingly wanted to explain the plot and provide a neat conclusion that would tie everything properly. While the story is complete, the explanation about the main antagonist proved to be very flimsy IMHO. In that regard I didn't quite enjoy the final revelation but because this entire story was so tightly plotted, it was too good, for it to be entirely spoiled for me. I thought that besides this small foible, this book was technically the best in the series in terms of story, pace and plot twists. I'm also hoping that the author plans to conclude this series in a sensible manner and not extend it with too much.

CONCLUSION: All in all, this was an excellent continuation of a series that I’ve come to enjoy so much. Ex-Purgatory is a solid story that will entertain and keep the reader guessing as to what is truly happening. I perhaps didn’t quite enjoy a particular aspect of the story but this was entirely personal and might not be shared by other readers. So keep that in mind and enjoy Ex-Purgatory. I'm already looking forward to Ex-Isle and the surprises it brings.

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