I did a review of Ex-Heroes, by Peter Clines, recently where I essentially said “cool concept, needs better writing”. I thought the book had potential but some dependency on superhero cliches and an overuse of sex appeal left me a little unimpressed. However, the book still appealed to me despite these turn offs and when I noticed the second book, Ex-Patriots, had a significantly higher Goodreads score, I thought why not give it a second chance. My single favorite thing to see an author do is improve from past work, and Ex-Patriots does this in spades. Many authors (and readers) get obsessed with this idea that authors must start brilliant, and stay brilliant, when often that is untrue. Everyone needs to learn and improve at their job, authors are no exception, so when I read a second book that addresses issues like Ex-Patriots does – well it fills me with glee.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Ex franchise or who didn’t click on the convenient link to the first review, the premise of Ex-Heroes is that a meteor hit the earth and a whole bunch of people woke up one day with superpowers, right about the same time we had a zombie apocalypse. Now all that is left of humanity is small bastions that are holding out against the plague – many with superpowered guardians. Our story follows a small cohort of heroes holed up with a thousand civilians in an old movie studio in Hollywood. The first book, Ex-Heroes, dealt with some nasty LA gangs that survived the zombie apocalypse. The second book, Ex-Patriots, deals with the military and how they are handling both the advent of superheroes and zombies.
I would like to first start off by saying my initial issues with Ex-Heroes are gone in Ex-Patriots. Clines dumped the oversexuality so that his characters still do it and have relationships, but every female character isn’t described by their bra size and every male by the girth of their bulge. Instead the characters are given much more, and much better, characterization that makes them a lot more fun to read about and got me invested in their survival pretty quickly. On top of this, Clines seems to have found his stride when it comes to making his heroes seem badass, as Ex-Patriots paints our team like the Justice League, where Ex-Heroes made them seem like a bunch of whiney teenagers. The humor is much more on point, and Clines has taken a more mature angle at tackling characters’ inner demons than previously.
The actual plot of the book revolves around the military and their new role in the post apocalyptic wasteland that is the USA. I really enjoyed how Clines handled the military in the story, paying homage to all the zombie and superhero military tropes, but also building himself something completely new. The plot and worldbuilding are getting more complex and Ex-Patriots got me much more invested overall in the world and trying to fix it. There are a slew of great new characters, including a fantastic new villain, that also bring a lot to the table and pump the excitement up a notch. This, combined with some great fighting, made the book action packed and thrilling from start to finish. My one criticism would be that some sections of the book still felt a little over the top, even for a superhero zombie apocalypse book, and hard to take seriously, but they were so few compared to Ex-Heroes that they didn’t really even bother me.
All in all, it feels like Clines looked at the feedback his readers gave him from book one and kept the good while fixing all the bad. The result is a much stronger book that I really enjoyed and happily recommend. I will definitely be continuing this series and if you think you can get past a tepid first book, you should look into picking up this fun series.
Rating: Ex-Patriots – 8.0/10