Superheros and zombies! The first book.

Publication year: 2011
Format: Audio
Publisher: Audible Inc.
Narrators: Jay Snyder and Khristine Hvam
Running Time: 8 hrs and 03 minutes

I don’t know if these books can be categorized as fantasy (but they clearly aren’t realism!) but they have zombies and the occasional horrific moments so I’m adding this one and the Ex-Patriots into the RIP challenge and the Horror and Urban Fantasy challenge.

The first book in the series has pretty much the same style than the first except that this time we get a lot more descriptions of the main characters.

The zombie apocalypse ended the world about two years ago. A group of surviving humans is holed up in Paramount Studios which they’ve built into a fortress, called the Mount. Their leaders are superheroes and the people rely on the heroes a lot. The most organized hero is the mysterious Stealth and her right hand man is St. George whom the people look up to. Zzzap can turn into electricity but he has to the keep the Mount’s power going so he spends most of his time in an electric chair doing just that. Gorgon acts as the small town’s sheriff, organizing the watch over the undead hordes outside the gates and keeping order inside. Cerberus is a battle armor and its designer is using it as part of the security team.

St. George and Cerberus lead a group of people to a scavenger hunt to nearby LA. They defend themselves against the ex-humans but mostly they try to sneak around. However, they soon notice that someone has been piling cars and the ex-humans shouldn’t be able to do that. On the way back, the group is ambushed by the biggest human gang in LA. The gang wants the Mount’s resources and their leader has a personal grudge against one of the heroes.

The plot moves fast with fights and twists. Every chapter has a part called “Then” written from the POV of an individual hero and set in the past; how he or she got their powers, why they decided to become heroes, and how some of them witness the first zombie uprisings. These stories introduce the heroes to us in a way that couldn’t have been done in the main story without a lot of exposition. I really liked the technique. The heroes are quite different from each other. St. George is the Superman analogue who wants to save everyone while Stealth is a ruthless woman who is willing to sacrifice a few for the common good. Gorgon is a hardened man who waged his own war against the gangs of LA before the apocalypse. He has an interesting power: when he looks at someone, he drains their energey and become stronger himself. That’s why he has to wear goggles all the time when he’s not in battle. Danielle operates the Cerberus armor whom she designed and built. Regenerator has lost his former healing powers and his wife, and he doesn’t have any hope for the future. Zzzap is perhaps the most powerful hero; he can turn into pure energy. However, he also has to power the Mount and when he’s in his human form, he needs a wheelchair. We also get a few stories from heroes who didn’t survive.

I have only two gripes. The heroes are described more than in the next book and there’s a lot of focus on Stealth’s outfit. Apparently, she has a literally skintight, thin costume and although it covers her completely every male drools after her. Was that really necessary? Don’t we have already enough female heroes who are nothing but hot bodies? Do they have to be in the books, too? Sigh. Her rather cliched background doesn’t help the situation. My other gripe is the weird shift in mob mentality. One minute they are adoring their heroes and the next they are willing to believe that the heroes have betrayed them. This feels like quite a quick shift.

Otherwise, I liked this story as much as I liked the next one, Ex-Patriots, which I listened accidentally first. The heroes are facing a huge problem and they are doing the best they can. However, people are getting restless inside the Mount, where they are safe but where they also don’t have much to do. The heroes work surprisingly well together, even Gorgon who was a loner before.

There’s a lot of action in the book, fighting the ex-humans. The heroes have also a couple of scientists working on the zombie problem and we get to know the pseudo science behind it.

The book has a lot of pop culture references. For example, one of the buildings in the Mount is called the Roddenberry, one of the characters is called Jarvis, Lady Bee wonders if Spider-Man could beat St. George, and Stealth is compared to Batman. The fighting humans also have a contest about killing celebrities and we find out about the gruesome fates of a few famous actors.

The two narrators work the same way as in the next book. Snyder narrates most of the book and Hvam narrates the dialogue for female characters. She also narrates the “Then” parts when the focus is on a female superhero with Snyder reading the male dialogue. I liked this technique but it’s not for everyone.

Oh, and this book is all fluffy fun. If you’re looking for weightier content, this is the wrong book for you.

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