Audiobook Review: Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

19 05 2011

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

Read by Jay Snyder and Khristine Hvam

Audible Frontiers

Genre: Fantasy, Zombies

Quick Thoughts: Ex-Heroes reads like a novelization of a Summer Blockbuster, full of exciting action and stunning visuals.

Grade: B

I was never much of a comic book guy. Yeah, I loved science fiction, but it never translated into the comic book realm. My knowledge and understanding of Superheroes came mostly from The Superfriends cartoons. The one lesson Superfriends taught me was that Superheroes were not just our physical betters, but our moral betters as well. Now, my comic book friends have scoffed at me when I said this, saying that the morality of those with super powers was quite ambiguous, at least in the comics. Now, on a surface level, I could see that, yet I could never get the past having Zan, Jayna and Gleek explain to me why vandalism was wrong and Batman telling me I shouldn’t approach unknown dogs. So, when I discovered there was a Superhero themed Zombie novel I was intrigued. I really cannot think of a more morally ambiguous literary scenario that a zombie apocalypse. How would the upholders of Truth, Justice and the American Way, deal with a recently infected human? Would our heroes use their superpowers to get an edge over other Survivors, or would they attempt to help as many innocents as possible? These were the questions floating in my mind as I started listening to Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines.

I have to say, for the first third of the book or so, I was under whelmed. The novel jumped between “now” with the heroes having established a safe zone in Los Angeles, leading foraging expeditions, and protecting people from zombies, and “then“, a look at how some of the heroes gained their powers, and their initial reactions to the zombie outbreak. I much preferred the “then” segments over the “now: segments which I felt were apocalyptic cliché and a bit muddled. Yet, as the novel progressed, I really began to get into it. Ex-Heroes reads like a novelization of a blockbuster movie. As the plot develops, with a growing conflict between the heroes and another group of survivors led by an inner city gang, the prose became more crisp, and the action stunningly visual. The Superheroes are definitely human in their foibles, with jealousies and grudges. The leader of the Heroes, Stealth is remark unlikable, with quite a dubious morality, yet St George acts as a perfect countering force, creating realistic, if not fantastic tension among the heroes. Even those who they protect hold grudges and are distrustful of the motives of the heroes, adding more fuel to a volatile mix. Clines pacing is rapid quick, as it builds to an exciting conclusion. Ex-Heroes is not going to win and literary prizes nor is it going to be applauded for its gritty realism. What is it, if you are willing to suspend disbelief and embrace the fantastic, is a fast, fun genre bending listen.

While I enjoyed the performances of narrators Jay Snyder and Khristine Hvam, I wasn’t a fan of the overall structure of narration. I never like using a male narrator, yet interposing a female narrator for the female dialogue. To me, this always sounds fake, and there is never any real flow to the dialogue. It sounds like what it is, two people reading lines in separate studios. No interplay. No chemistry. For my money, it offers nothing special to a production. That being said, the individual performances by the narrators were excellent. Jay Snyder is a veteran narrator, who excels at concise reading of fast paced action. He never rushes, and this allows the listener to be able to better visualize the action as it is taking place. Kristine Hvam handles her voice roles well. I would have liked to see more female Heroes POV to expand Hvam’s role, beyond a few short narratives, and the female dialogue. All together, Ex-Heroes was a fun listen and definitely enough of a teaser to get me excited for its upcoming sequel, Ex-Patriots.