Ex-Isle is the 5th and latest book in Peter Clines “Ex-Heroes” series. The series is a kind of mash-up of two different genres — Superhero meets Zombie Apocalypse. The series so far consists of Ex-Heroes, Ex-Patriots, Ex-Communication, Ex-Purgatory, and this novel. The general premise is that superheroes exist and when the zombie apocalypse arrives in the summer of 2009, most of them work towards making sure that humanity survives.
One of the last bastions of humanity is “The Mount”, a former movie studio converted into a walled-off community, guarded by the remnants of a military super-soldier program (lead by Captain Freedom), as well as some prominent superheroes. There’s Stealth, a secretive and elusive woman, capable of disappearing into the shadows — she’s the leader of the community. There’s also St. George (formerly “The Mighty Dragon”), a superman-like hero, with super-strength, near invulnerability, and a fiery breath. There’s Zzzap, aka Barry, a handicapped young man with the ability to turn himself into an energy form that is capable of flight at incredible speeds, perceiving energy of all different forms and wavelengths, and burning things up (at great physical cost to himself). There’s Madeleine, Aka Corpse Girl, an apparently dead, but animated teenage girl, created through a scientists experiments with nanotechnology to heal his daughter — she awakens every morning with most of her memories erased. There’s Danielle, who maintains and operates the Cerberus mechanical exoskeleton, an incredibly powerful device that makes her, effectively, a superhero as well. Unfortunately, Cerberus was nearly destroyed and is months away from being fully operational when the novel begins. And there’s Cesar, aka “the Driver”, a man capable of merging with any mechanical device (including Cerberus) and controlling it as if it’s his actual body.
This particular novel is split into two separate stories occurring simultaneously. Barry/Zzzap has been flitting around the globe, trying to locate and communicate with other human outposts. After a visit to Japan, he stumbles upon a huge floating island consisting of lots of boats and ships tied together. He convinces Stealth to allow St. George, Madeleine and himself to visit with the inhabitants of the island, offer trade, possibly lend them assistance if they need it, or allow anyone to emigrate to the Mount, if they so desire. Meanwhile, the mount has a major project going on to set up a whole new area for agricultural expansion — it’s dubbed Project Eden and it’s risky because it is outside of the walls of the Mount, and not yet secure. Cesar, and most of the super-soldiers are tasked with protecting the people there while they farm, and shore up defenses. Danielle accompanies them with the Cerberus armor, to continue repairing it, and lend whatever assistance she can as the suit becomes more fit for duty.
Of course, there would be no story to tell if everything went according to plan. The floating island is led by another superhero who calls himself Nautilus. He accuses St. George of being an impostor — he was friends with the real Mighty Dragon, and that’s not him. And meanwhile, suspicions arise at Eden that things there are not exactly as they seem there either.
I have not read any other zombie books, though I understand that in these days of “The Walking Dead”, that they’ve become very popular. I am a fan of “The Walking Dead” television series and comic books (though I’ve only been reading the omnibus and trade paperback collections, so I’m not really caught up with them). Of superhero books, I was a minor comic book fan back in the late 1970s, and early ’80s, and have recently started reading a few trade paperbacks from both Marvel and DC. As far as non-graphical books though, there’s a few good ones out there. The best of them, imho, is George R.R. Martin’s “Wild Cards” series. But the Ex-Heroes series is fun as well. The Zombie-superhero mashup is not perfect, but it’s still good fun. I’d never claim that these books are anything but what they strive to be — simply mindless entertainment. But if you like stories about superheroes, or stories about zombies., this series will satisfy your urges. It’s not the best out there, but it’s good fun. And the series format keeps you coming back to revisit with your favorite characters.
If you like superheroes (and nowadays, who doesn’t?), and if you like Zombies (like in The Walking Dead), then check this out. If you like them both, then this series of books will be perfect for you. I would definitely recommend reading the books in order, to understand the characters better, and to understand how The Mount has survived and grown to the point of the start of the novel, and to learn about some of the earlier events that are referenced. You probably could catch on to all the important stuff (hey, the zombie apocalypse is pretty easy to get a handle on). But you won’t get some of the background info, and following the whole larger story from novel to novel is part of the fun.