Review: “Ex-Purgatory,” Peter Clines

Pros: Love seeing more of the heroes’ backgrounds
Cons: Beginning stretched out too much
Rating: 4 out of 5

Ex-Purgatory is book four in the delightful zombie/super-hero “Ex-Heroes” series by Peter Clines. This time we get a look at St. George working as a handyman at a university. He’s just starting to pick up on his invulnerability/strength when things get weird. Sometimes he sees zombies trying to kill him, while sometimes everything seems clean and normal. There’s a woman in a wheelchair telling him that the world has been overrun by these ex-humans, but clearly that isn’t true. Gradually he starts to make contact with Stealth and Zzzap, but his world just gets weirder and weirder. He isn’t sure what to believe in.

 

I realize that’s a short (and probably confusing) teaser, but it’s hard to explain much of the premise without giving away some of the layers of plot. I really enjoyed learning more about some of the heroes’ backgrounds. The only problem I had was that it went on overlong and kept the momentum low. To be fair, the complexity probably merited that slow introduction. The reason it seemed ill-placed is because the series-so-far has had a fast enough pace to make this seem like an awkward change. Some of the initial material also felt repetitive.

Mind you, that only knocked my rating down to a 4-out-of-5, and that’s still a very good rating. The characters take on more dimension with every book, and I already thought they were great in the first installment. It was fascinating to see how each of the characters (thinking mostly of Stealth, St. George, and Zzzap) spent their work time before they became heroes and the world ended. I particularly liked the image of “St. George/the Mighty Dragon” as a university handyman–it just isn’t what I’d come to expect, and it works perfectly.

Things do pick up later in the book, and clues become contradictory, making it hard to pin down exactly what’s happening. This is probably a reader-dependent thing. In retrospect I have a feeling there’ll be a sharp divide between readers who think it’s a great mystery and readers who think it’s obvious. Lucky for me, for whatever reason I didn’t find it obvious, so that kept the mystery more intense.

I will say that even if you think you know what’s going on, there will still be surprises when you get to the end. Again, trying not to spoil anything here. I loved how it worked out, and look forward to reading the next installment! Unfortunately I think that’s supposed to be in February of 2016, which will be hard to wait for!

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