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Monday, April 22, 2013

RE-REVIEW: Ex-Patriots by Peter Clines (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 The Junkie Quatrain
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of 14 

INTRODUCTION: I had read Ex-Patriots nearly two years after I was completely wowed by Ex-Heroes. The sequel didn’t disappoint me with the overall story continuation. Since then we have had to wait for the third book to be released. The reasons for this delay are covered over here and here. With Crown Publishing picking up this series, I was ecstatic to see that one of my favorite series would be getting a bigger spotlight.

As with Ex-Heroes, I’ve decided to re-review this title and since there aren’t many changes in the story here besides some editing changes which are to be expected. Overall though these differences are minor ones and so here’s my review from 2011 as I think it states why I like this book and love this series so much. As with my previous re-review I've made some changes in my review to reflect the new edition. So be sure to pick up this excellent sequel and find out why I consider Peter Clines to be a fantastic storyteller!

PRESS RELEASE: Originally published by a small, print-on-demand press without any publicity or marketing support and almost no physical distribution, Peter Clines’ fantastic debut, Ex-Heroes, still managed to draw an incredible cult following and had genre fans all over the blogosphere raving when Broadway released the paperback in February. Now, Broadway is thrilled to introduce the second in Clines’ sci-fi, thriller, and horror fiction mashup series, Ex-Patriots.

Featuring the same cast of brilliant original superheroes, expert thriller plotting, cinematic action scenes, and tons of fun geek and pop-culture references (and set in L.A., where a number of celebrities make rather humorous cameos as zombies), Ex-Patriots is one of those rare sequels that is even more gripping than the first and is sure to establish Clines as one to watch for by fans of such hits as Watchmen, World War Z, and Ready Player One


Original 2011 Review of Ex-Patriots

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 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: It's been two years since the plague of ex-humans decimated mankind. Two years since the superheroes St. George, Cerberus, Zzzap, and Stealth gathered Los Angeles’s survivors behind the walls of their fortress, the Mount. Since then, the heroes have been fighting to give the Mount’s citizens hope, and something like a real life. But now supplies are growing scarce, the zombies are pressing in . . . and the heroes are wondering how much longer they can hold out.

Then hope arrives in the form of a surviving US Army battalion--and not just any battalion. The men and women of the Army's Project Krypton survived the outbreak because they are super-soldiers, created before mankind's fall to be better, stronger, faster than normal humans--and their secure base in Arizona beckons as a much needed refuge for the beleaguered heroes and their charges.

But a dark secret lies at the heart of Project Krypton, and those behind it wield an awesome and terrifying power.

With the same wry wit and light touch that bedazzled readers of Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriots features great new characters, cool new threats, and jaw-dropping plot twists that will amaze even the most well-versed in the adventure genre.

FORMAT/INFO: Ex-Patriots is 424 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. There is also a chapter excerpt of Ex-Communication, the  long-awaited 3rd book of this series. 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 series. Readers can read this book without having read the first but there are some significant spoilers for the first volume as well some confusion in regards to certain plot & character developments.

Ex-Patriots was previously published on September 4, 2011 in the paperback and e-book format via Permuted press. It will be re-released in paperback and e-book format on April 23, 2013 via Broadway Paperbacks (Crown Publishing) in the US. Del Rey UK will be releasing it paperback form on July 11, 2013 while it has already been released as an e-book on April 11, 2013. US Cover art is provided by Jonathan Bartlett.

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

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 lay the quandary for the author as to come with a story that 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 rights and choices. Things however look up as they celebrate Independence Day and people have a good time. Their celebration is noticed by a military drone, which brings out two choppers full 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 series 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 it’s 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 that aims to bring new zeal but some of 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 quite come together as much as the first book. But this sequel is still a great effort and continues the excellent story begun in its predecessor. Ex-Patriots is a crackerjack of a sequel, continuing in the same vein and yet delivering a thoroughly refurbished product which readers can enjoy thoroughly. Peter Clines shows he’s no one-hit wonder & now I can’t wait to see how what he has planned next in Ex-Communication.



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