Normally, coming into a series in book number four may prove challenging, however, Peter Clines’ “Ex-Purgatory” proves to be accessible to newcomers, even as it mystifies and delights long-time fans with a departure from the style they’ve come to expect.
Like “Ex-Heroes”, “Ex-Patriots” and “Ex-Communication” before it, “Ex-Purgatory” features Clines’ post-apocalyptic heroes St. George, Stealth, Captain Freedom, Zzzap, The Corpse Girl and Cerberus. Unlike before the Hollywood-based, zombie-battling heroes don’t remember who they are, or that the dead walk the Earth. The novel’s synopsis best sets the stage for the situation in which we find the heroes.
When he’s awake, George Bailey is just an ordinary man. Five days a week he coaxes his old Hyundai to life, curses the Los Angeles traffic, and clocks in at his job as a handyman at the local college.
But when he sleeps, George dreams of something more.
George dreams of flying. He dreams of fighting monsters. He dreams of a man made of pure lightning, an armored robot, a giant in an army uniform, a beautiful woman who moves like a ninja.
Then one day as he’s walking from one fix-it job to the next, a pale girl in a wheelchair tells George of another world, one in which civilization fell to a plague that animates the dead…and in which George is no longer a glorified janitor, but one of humanity’s last heroes.
Her tale sounds like madness, of course. But as George’s dreams and his waking life begin bleeding together, he starts to wonder—which is the real world, and which is just fantasy?
Churchill first used “It is a middle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” as a descriptor in 1939, and it still remains a mark to which those crafting tales of mystery and intrigue aspire.
Clines manages to wield such an enigma as he combines elements of “The Matrix”, “Inception”, zombie culture and classic super heroism in this tale that’s peppered with shifts in time, reality and circumstance. He keeps readers guessing while still managing to bring action, humor and wit to the table. “Ex-Purgatory” then, is a superhero tale, wrapped in a zombie apocalypse, inside timeless sci-fi tropes, and that is a recipe for fun, refreshingly unique reading.
Those who enjoy a blend of the best elements from a variety of disparate sources, or who seek a fresh spin on the superhero landscape will find plenty to their liking in Clines’ latest.
Publish date: Jan. 14, 2014
Author: Peter Clines
Publisher: Crown Publishing, Random House Publishing