Hallie's Reviews > Ex-Heroes

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines
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May 01, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: audiobook, sf
Read in April, 2012

Important note re rating: it's for the audiobook - might have had a completely different reaction to reading it.

This sounded to me like a fairly bog-standard zombies + comic book heroes story (if there is such a thing??), but there are a few reasons I suspect that my judgment may be skewed by the audiobook experience in this case, which I'll try to elaborate with a bit of coherence. (With admission that I'm not a big reader of zombie stories or comics, so this is sheer response.)

1) I've recently discovered that there is little I find more boring than listening to audiobooks with a lot of fight scenes - those fights being with supernatural beings of a variety of sorts. (I don't read or listen to non-spec-fic fighting books at all.) Something that might be skimmed in very few minutes drags on intolerably when read aloud, and I am sick to death of the repetition of "the monster/zombie/magical baddie took a full round of shots/baseball bat/large SUV to the head - its/his brain exploded in lovingly described detail - and then it mostly glued together again and monster/zombie/magical baddie attacked anew" description. Seriously? You're making ME want to take the large SUV to the audiobook.

2) I suspect - again with admission that I know what I shall politely call SFA about the matter - that comic books are short for a reason. (Some day, if my brain ever recovers, I might think a bit about how much it relates to the reason fairy tales are very hard to do well at novel-length. Gut suspicion is a lot.) They're a genre that's short because we only need to know a few pertinent facts about the heroes, and certainly no in-depth characterization, as that's not what the heroes are about. In the narration of this book, the heroes, especially the female ones (who were done by a female narrator, in what became a very annoying back-and-forth between two narrators) talk in a very flattened voice. Which works in a book, or even in a film, for that quick snip of angst before hero flies off to fight evil, but at 8+ hours? Not very endearing. The "then" and "now" narration didn't exactly help, as we were only finding out the how-they-became-heroes at points considerably into the book, for most of them. St. George, for example, only became a character that I could feel for in the last-but-one chapter.

3) Finally - one that's harder to explain clearly as I don't have a copy of the book in front of me - there was a worrying racial issue in the book AS READ, which I might never have noticed reading myself, and might, in fact, not even be in the book itself. The big, bad gang which was still around in LA and trying to take over was the Seventeens. (17s?) The big, bad leader of the gang (whose name I can't actually remember), was definitely read as a Latino. And it wasn't just the reader doing the accent for no reason, since the bad guy used a lot of slang I learned from my ex back in the day. But without anything to indicate otherwise, all the heroes sounded very much -- y'know, just like white Americans, except for Banzai, in her short "then" section - and that was only brought up because her father was berating her for choosing a Japanese name when the family was from Korea. So the overall effect is that the bad guys are a bunch of Latino thugs and the heroes are white-bread Americans.

Those maybe-audiobook-only complaints complained, there was a lot of cool stuff in the book, and quite a few twists I didn't see coming at all. And there was even some humour, which was nice in a story of such a bleak, and very possibly doomed world. Or at least a doomed United States. (Outside the US? No mention of it that I remember!)
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