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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Ex-Patriots" by Peter Clines (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

Read FBC’s review of Ex-Heroes
Order Ex-Patriots HERE
Read an excerpt HERE

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

OFFICIAL SYNOPSIS: It’s been two years since the world ended.

Two years since the dead rose and the plague of ex-humanity decimated mankind. For most of that time, the superhero called St. George, formerly known to the world as the Mighty Dragon, has protected the people of Los Angeles at their film studio-turned-fortress, The Mount. Together with his fellow heroes—Cerberus, Zzzap, and Stealth—he’s tried to give the survivors hope and something like a real life. But the swollen population of the Mount is becoming harder and harder to sustain, and the heroes are feeling the pressure.

Hope arrives in the form of a United States Army battalion, based in a complex a few hundred miles away in Arizona. This is not just any base, however. The men and women of Project Krypton are super-soldiers, designed and created before the outbreak to be better, stronger, and faster than normal humans. They want the heroes and all the people of the Mount to rejoin America and have normal lives again.

But can the military be trusted? And is there even a country left to rejoin? There is a secret at the heart of Project Krypton, and those behind it have an awesome power that will help them keep that secret hidden. The power of Freedom!

FORMAT/INFO: Ex-Patriots is 292 pages long divided over a prologue, thirty-two numbered/titled chapters, and an epilogue. 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 Stealth, Dr. Emil Sorenson,Staff sergeant Kennedy, Sergeant Harry Harrison, Cerberus, Zzzap, Captain John Carter Freedom, John Smith, First sergeant Paine, Platoon sergeant Johnson, Private Kurt Taylor, St. George and a few minor characters. Ex-Patriots has a self-contained plot and is the second book in the Ex Trilogy. Readers can read this book without having read the first but there will minor spoilers for the first story as well some confusion in regards to certain plot & character developments.

September 4, 2011 marked the paperback and e-book publication of Ex-Patriots via Permuted press. Cover art is provided by Garret DeChellis.

CLASSIFICATION: Mixing zombies with superheroes in a desolate world. Peter Clines’s world of Ex-Patriots is George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead meets Matthew Reilly’s Area 7 meets The X-Men.

ANALYSIS: After reading Peter Clines' excellent debut Ex-Heroes, I was very excited to see where he would take the characters and the world he had written about, in the next book. As is the case with most successful debuts, the sequels come up high anticipation and therein lies the quandary for the author as to come with a story which will resonate with the readers and give them something from the previous book and also at the same time head the characters in a new direction. It’s a tight rope act and one which has to done precisely as there are no second chances.

Peter Clines’ sequel to his exhilarating debut is titled Ex-Patriots and focuses on events a year later after what has happened in Ex-Heroes. The Mount community has more than doubled in its size due to the influx of immigrants from the other side. The Heroes have had their share of losses but their workload has even increased and now there’s a bit of resentment being aimed at the heroes by someone who believes they are taking away their civilian choices and rights. Things however look up as they celebrate Independence Day and people have a good time. Their celebrations are noticed by a military drone which brings out two choppers of US soldiers. These soldiers aren’t just the ordinary kind, they are from the project Krypton headed by Dr. Emil Sorrenson. They prove their capabilities and invite the heroes to their base as the Cerebrus armor is something which would be invaluable to them. On arriving at the Krypton base, things start going southwards as the heroes learn of certain things. But the main question is who is the real villain amidst all these events and what does this mean for all the humans still living in the Mount?

Sequels are always hard things to write however the author does the smart thing by sticking to his original successful formula of structuring his story and making sure that the readers instantly feel reconnected with the characters, however the new thing which he does is that he shifts the location of the action from Los Angeles to Project Krypton out in the Arizona desert. This shift causes a change of scenery as well as helps in widening the focus of the story and giving the readers an outward look at the events which have been happening. This pattern was very reminiscent of Matthew Reilly’s Scarecrow novels wherein the first two books had a similar plot structure but were in diametrically opposite environments.

The characterization is again top notch as we re-enter the lives of the POV characters picking up from where the readers were left off & the fit is smooth. This time however the flashback then sections focus more on the newer characters thereby giving us a fresher look at the story but this move also detaches a bit of the attachment to the primary characters. As this time around its the new characters who are the recipients of the "Then" sections.

This book had a primary drawback which was that during the middle portion, it tends to have a lull in the action and robs the story of some of its energy as well as the tension. This move while explained in the climax seems premeditated but somehow doesn’t quite come across so clearly. There’s also the addition of the new characters which aims to bring new zeal but some of the these characters aren’t as intriguing as the earlier POV ones. Also some of them don’t get enough time to develop as the story restricts their flashbacks. These points might be something which were noticed only by me and many wouldn’t be bothered by them however anticipation often is a double-edged blade. The ending however redeems these points completely as the author reveals his final twists which will definitely surprise many a reader and continues the tie-in with the overall all series arc.

CONCLUSION: Peter Clines’ sequel aims to please all new as well as the previous readers however the overall execution didn’t come across as envisioned. But the book is still a great effort and continues the excellent story begun in Ex-Heroes. Ex-Patriots is a crackerjack of a sequel, continuing in the same vein and yet delivering a thoroughly refurbished product in which readers can get lost in. Its an excellent middle book & now I can’t wait to see how it all ends in Ex-Communication.



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