Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ex-Heroes, (Permuted Press), by Peter Clines

Let's be honest here. If you are at all like me, the second you realized that this was a book about zombies and superheroes you kinda piddled your pants a little. I want to play the jaded reviewer, full of pith and vinegar and calls for clich├ęs on pikes. I really do. But, I'm only human and I never would have gone into this if I wasn't a giggling, drooling, prancing fan-boy at heart. A giggling, drooling, prancing fan-boy with a soft spot for skin tight Lycra, super human anything and dead things that refuse to stay that way.

You know the drill, so sing along: Dead people just won't stay dead, like good little corpses, anymore. They've so overwhelmed most of human civilization, leaving a relative few holed up in a makeshift fortress to wait out the siege. The good news is that they have some help: strong, smart, vampiric, electrified and super-suited help. The bad news is that they aren't the only ones left alive in LA and they aren't the only ones with super powers. Worse, as the back of the book tells us, these others are not heroes.

Peter Clines doesn't reinvent the wheel here, by any means. The zombies are slow and stupid (with minor, superhero allowances) and obey all of the traditional Romero inspired rules. It's basically a siege and survival story. Also, the heroes are nothing new: Superman, Electric Man, an Iron Man clone, super-healing abilities, even someone who is just a really good shot. Still, I don't give the proverbial "rat patootie". This isn't a novel of novelty, it is a story built upon archetypes, archetypes which play out according to form and expectation with a kind of poetry and symmetry that is a beauty to behold.

By removing the pretty shinnies of a novel theory of zombieism or that brand new super-amazing super-power, Petey is left with nothing but his ability to tell a story and the story he tells is a damn good one. Mostly, it stands because it is anchored in real people, ability to turn into a mini star or no, who are displayed with honesty, dignity and fragility.

This guy understands that all of us try to be something we can never actually be, whether that may be a pure, shining beacon of light and morality, a stone-cold realist or an all conquering powerhouse. The true glory, the true story, is in the struggle to achieve what will always lie just out of our reach. That's why I peed myself a little bit more when I finished reading it.

The equation is simple: Zombies + Superheroes + well-fleshed out, believable characters + an honest to goodness, goddamn uplifting story, instead of yet another "let's just say everyone dies at the end" chompfest = me needing new pants. Mr. Clines, from the bottom of my heart, this fan-boy thanks you.

Buy it today.

Anton Cancre is one of those rotting, pus-filled thingies on the underside of humanity that your mother always warned you about. He has oozed symbolic word-farms onto the pages of Shroud, Sex and Murder and Horrorbound magazines as well as The Terror at Miskatonic Falls, an upcoming poetry anthology by Shroud Publishing and continues to vomit his oh-so-astute literary opinions, random thoughts and nonsense at antoncancre.blogspot.com. No, he won't babysit you pet shoggoth this weekend. Stop asking.

1 comment:

Thomas said...

I completely agree!!
I loved the book! Being a comic book nerd and zombie-phile, this was a match made in some dark ante-chamber of hell's waiting room!
Great review of a great book!