Pros: Visiting all the classic genre add-ins with fresh eyes on each one
Cons: Why did they take Corpse Girl with them for a meet-and-greet?
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Peter Clines’s Ex-Isle is book five in his fantastic “Ex-Heroes” series. The whole thing is a fascinating mash-up of ex-humans (zombies) and superheroes. In one volume super-soldiers got added into the mix, and a demon put in an appearance at another point. In this case, the heroes have located a floating ‘island’ of boats carrying survivors. Barry (Zzzap), St. George, and Madelyn (Corpse Girl) head off to see how these people are doing and whether they’d like to relocate to the Los Angeles zone. Simultaneously, some of the people holding down the fort at home work on building a garden (“Eden”) as they slowly run out of food; this became more urgent when a bunch of the fruit trees nearby burned in a fire. Danielle is also trying to resurrect the Cerberus battle armor, but it’s slow going at best.
Although it’s a small thing, I’d like to point out the idiocy of taking along Madelyn when attempting to meet new people. She may not be an ex-, but she sure as hell looks like one. That should be a quick route to getting her, well, not killed exactly, but damaged. It could also damage the credibility of the rescue team to be apparently working with a zombie. She put in a great show battling zombies and other dangers, but their reasoning for bringing her escapes me.
Hearkening back to old times, I love that Clines still designates his chapters by “THEN” and “NOW” rather than expecting us to keep up with a complex timeline.
Understandably, the folks on the ships don’t greet our heroes with open arms. Every stranger is a possible enemy, and it doesn’t help that the good buys brought Corpse Girl with them. Add in a megalomaniacal hero called Nautilus, who’s willing to endanger children in order to ensure cooperation, and everything goes to hell. It doesn’t help that Nautilus has told all of the people on the ships that LA, among other major cities, got nuked. Since our heroes come from LA, they’re immediately pegged as liars.
Back at Eden, there’s something worrisome going on with the supersoldiers. They’re being secretive and working harder than usual at exercising and keeping their strength up, down to stealing certain supplies. When the others notice, they fear a possible coup. To make things even more uncertain, some of the gang members who joined up think that the soldiers’ odd behavior means they plan to kill all the ex-gang members. They start planning diversions and escapes in case they’re needed.
There’s some great material in here regarding the Cerberus suit, Cesar, Danielle, and so on. I look forward to seeing more of that if there’s a next book in the series. It’s fantastic character growth material.
Ex-Isle brings us multiple zombie incursions in multiple tender spots–there’s plenty of creative battling, particularly when ammo runs low. We also get to see superhero clashes and plans for the LA safe zone to grow and take care of its people. The pacing is great, the characters are wonderful, and I absolutely love the world-building.