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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ex-Communication 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 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 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:All of us try to cheat death. I was just better prepared to do it than most folks.”

In the years since the wave of living death swept the globe, St. George and his fellow heroes haven’t just kept Los Angeles’ last humans alive—they’ve created a real community, a bustling town that’s spreading beyond its original walls and swelling with new refugees. 

But now one of the heroes, perhaps the most powerful among them, seems to be losing his mind. The implacable enemy known as Legion has found terrifying new ways of using zombies as pawns in his attacks. And outside the Mount, something ancient and monstrous is hell-bent on revenge.

As Peter Clines weaves these elements together in yet another masterful, shocking climax, St. George, Stealth, Captain Freedom, and the rest of the heroes find that even in a city overrun by millions of ex-humans... there’s more than one way to come back from the dead.

FORMAT/INFO: Ex-Communication is 346 pages long divided over a prologue, thirty-six 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, Madelyn S. , Cerberus, Zzzap, Captain John Carter Freedom, St. George, Maxwell Hale, Legion and a few minor characters. Ex-Communication has a self-contained plot and is the third book in the Ex series. Readers can read this book without having read the previous two but there are some significant spoilers for the preceding titles.

Ex-Communication was published in paperback and e-book format on July 9, 2013 via Broadway Paperbacks (Crown Publishing) in the US. Del Rey UK has released it in paperback and e-book form (see cover below) on July 11, 2013 in 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: Ex-Communication is a book that I have been waiting to read for nearly 2 years. It was the third and supposedly the end of the Ex series but recent revelations by the author have clarified that this is not the case. The fourth book will be out early next year and remains a thing for the future. With Ex-Communication, I wanted to see where the author would take the story in regards to the plot arcs of the first two. 

As the story begins, the author returns us to Los Angeles nearly six months after the events of Ex-Patriots. Things haven’t been that smooth even with the addition of the Krypton super soldier unit as Legion is back and has discovered newer ways to harass the living. St. George, Zzzap, Cerebrus, Stealth and the others are settling in while trying to figure out how to best overcome Legion. Their problems however take a strange turn when they find out Zzzap has been talking to a strange entity. This entity claims to be someone from their past and one who has fought alongside the heroes. In the flashback sequences, we get to see who this might be and also we get a new POV character, a girl called Madelyn. She has a strange connection to the events of the second book and heralds a possibility that will be hard to comprehend for all our beloved characters.

With the third Ex book, I’m glad to find the author taking the series in a new direction. Until now we have had different plots and directions from each book, but with this one, there is a culmination to several plot and character arcs from Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots. There’s a lot hanging from the previous two books like the origin of the Ex-Humans, Regenerator and his unique tie-in with this issue as well as issue of death. All of it is brought to the fore in this book along with the concept of magic. Among the heroes, it has always been superpowers but so far there was never any magical side to things. In this book though, the author focuses on a character from the previous books and brings in a whole new side to that person. We learn how the normal humans have been coping with such a drastic change to their lives and how religion fits into the overall scheme.

I enjoyed this aspect of the story as the author explored the religion angle, which had been left hitherto unmentioned, and in this book, it forms quite a significant chunk. Then there’s another aspect, which the author explores that is tied in more with science but I’ll let the readers find out about it as it falls under massive plot spoilers. Trust me you’ll know when you hit that part of the story. Basically the biggest question explored in this volume is about death and what makes us human. The superheroes struggle with it as do the rest of humanity but in the end it’s up to the readers to decide whether the answers provided in the book make sense to them.

The story employs the claustrophobic elements of being trapped in fabulously from the first book but with the caveat that there’s a timer set to the storyline and at the end of it is an apocalypse that would make the Ex event seem like a honeymoon. The plot twists are rather amped up as the author brings a lot of conclusion to several events and plot-lines from the preceding books. I very much enjoyed that aspect of the story as many questions were answered and a lot of clues in regards to characters and possible future story-lines were set into motion. This book can serve as a conclusion of sorts to the story begun in Ex-Heroes however it is definitely not an end to Ex-series. With previous books there have been a few character deaths and the trend continues in this one as well.

With death and its trappings being explored here, it becomes quite fascinating to read about what the author has planned for the readers with these three books. Looking back now, one can see all the hints and foreshadowing that comes into play with this book. I think readers will enjoy reading all three books in one go to see how closely knit they are and perhaps they might spot further knots that have been planned by the author. Almost as good as Ex-Heroes. Ex-Communication will have more readers flipping pages to see how it all ends and hungering for Ex-Purgatory immediately.

Lastly with such a series, there are bound to be a few flaws that creep in, namely with such a huge cast of characters and POV characters, there’s no way the author would be able to fit all of them in a single book unless he goes all George R.R. Martin on the story (which thankfully he doesn’t). The story focuses on most but leaves out some others and therefore we are left wondering as to how those characters are doing until the next one. Like I mentioned previously, the author explores the religion aspect but doesn’t quite take it all the way, this I feel was more due to page constraints and plot pacing issues. I would love to see this angle explored in further stories.

CONCLUSION: Peter ClinesEx-Communication come with a whole lot of expectations and anticipation (2 years) but the beauty of the book is that it manages to overcome all of it and yet surprised me with the plot and story direction. A terrific third volume, which shows how much planning has gone into the writing of the first three books. Ex-Communication is a fun book that explores another angle of the Ex world and yet manages to retain a fresh approach to this zombie-afflicted story.



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