Review: “Ex-Communication,” Peter Clines

Pros: Fantastic action sequences
Cons:
Rating: 5 out of 5

Ex-Communication is book three in Peter Clines’s excellent “Ex-Heroes” saga, following Ex-Heroes and Ex-Patriots. We’ve gone from superheroes and zombies, to superheroes, super-soldiers, and zombies–and now, sorcerers and demons oh my. One of the ‘superheroes’ from before the start of the series is a man (Max) who possesses the body of a demon (Cairax), rather than the other way around. So he had a superbly terrifying, powerful, and nigh-invulnerable physical form but the mind of a man–before he died. Now his ghost is planning a big comeback, but it comes with a whole lot of caveats and dangers that Max isn’t mentioning to his old friends. Added to the mix is a young woman who seems to be, well, dead. Not a zombie, despite the cold skin and lack of heartbeat; she has a sense of identity, after all, and a perfectly normal ability to converse with others. She’s just… dead. Not surprisingly, quite a few people are not okay with that situation.

 

I’m still having a blast reading Clines’s series of books about superheroes and the zombie apocalypse, and I’ll be diving into the next book post-haste. The characters are so much fun; we finally get to learn a bit more about Stealth in this volume, although I don’t want to ruin it by adding any details. I’ll just say that I’ve been wanting to get to this part, and I enjoyed its execution quite a bit. One of the other character aspects I love about the series in general is the humanity of the super-humans. They make mistakes. They can be naive or overly skeptical. They can be outgoing or hermit-like. They’re… well, they’re people. They’re interesting as individuals no matter what their powers.

I have to mention one thing I love about these books that will probably seem trivial. I’m not fond of books that hop around in time so excessively that dates and times are tacked on to every chapter start. The more different times or dates displayed, the harder it gets to keep the book’s timeline straight. Clines has done one thing to correct this that is surprisingly elegant: chapters are simply labeled as either ‘Then’ or ‘Now’–flashback to the past or narrating the present. I want to see more authors using this instead of dates.

“I don’t know if you noticed […] but the natural order’s been violated from pretty much every angle you can imagine.”

Issues of life-and-death, resurrection, and identity weave their way through the various plots playing out. How do you decide what is part of the ‘natural order of things’ when you’ve discovered zombies, superheroes, and super-soldiers are all real? Where do you stop? Is it possible that the zombies could still be harboring pieces of their ‘real’ selves beyond those blank stares? This is a fascinating angle to explore, and religion does get pulled into it at a reasonable level. (By reasonable I mean that while there are some fanatics, there are also much more reasonable religious characters as well. A spectrum is provided.)

Don’t worry–there isn’t just philosophical material to ponder; there’s also plenty of excitement. I couldn’t put the book down once it reached the climactic fight scenes and plot twists. They played out spectacularly.

I ended up babbling about fascinating parts of the plot and characters to my husband, which as I’ve mentioned before is often the sign that a book is good enough to make the jump from a 4-out-of-5 to a 5-out-of-5. It means the book really pulled me in, held my attention, and made me think–made me love the characters and care what happened to them.

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