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Book Probe: Ex-Heroes, Seal Team 666
Reviewed by Joe Crowe, © 2013

Format: Book
By:   Peter Clines and @revolutionsf
Genre:   Sci-fi
Review Date:   March 04, 2013

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Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

Almost no one used the word zombie. They’d been “exes” since the first presidential press conference. It made them easier to accept, somehow.

I like superheroes. I like zombies. This book has them both. The two genres don't fit together. Superheroes are, basically, uplifting stories, and zombie stories are, generally, not going to end well.

For most zombie stories, how they zom out is not important to the story, because no one wants that. No one wants to heal zombies. They want to blow their heads off. Zombie killin' is fun. Zombie curin' is not.

Here, the cause is pretty important, and Clines springs it on us, in a good, stunning fashion.

The problem with mixing the two is that normal humans have to find ways to shoot or whack zombies, or run, because they're puny humans. Superheroes can fly, run fast, and bust through walls. Zombies would not be an issue for them.

Writer Peter Clines figured out how to get himself a stew going. The heroes are not Thor-level, and the zombies are not the only source of angst.

The story stumbles a couple of times. The cast is crammed with heroes, and when they talk instead of fight zombies, it's difficult to keep up with which name is saying what, because for some, their powers are their only defining characteristic.

But then when they fight, they fight and fight and fight and fight. There's no balance.

The other issue is flashbacks, Lost-style. The story shifts from third-person in the present to first-person in the past, and the past is standard-issue hero origin business. Get back to the zombie killin'!

The strongest part of the story is the emotional weight. The heroes are not normal folks who happen to have powers. They're bigger than life, inspirational icons, who must deal with the worst-case superhero scenario.

Ex-Heroes is more superhero book than zombie book, and it's not what you'd call a laugh generator. It puts the zombie of peanut butter into the superhero chocolate, and forms a tasty treat.

Seal Team 666 by Weston Ochse

The book, about a special operations team that deals with supernatural threats, starts out fast, with the SEAL Team 666 and their backup, a group of normal SEALs, heading to a target in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the author seems obsessed with military jargon and hardware specifications, and starts throwing out acronyms left and right; if the reader is not up on his military pornography, it's easy for them to get lost, alienated from the beginning.

I like the premise of the book, although throughout, I kept hearing Sean Connery's voice say "Never bring a knife to a gunfight". If you accept the premise -- magics exist, and that conventional arms are only worth so much in a fight against the supernatural, as evidenced by the first and subsequent combat sequences, then you'd expect that SEAL Team 666 would adjust their armaments to be less of the conventional weapons, and more fitting to the kind of fights in which they engage. Why canteens of Holy Water? Why not a high-powered water cannon, or at least a Nerf motorized water gun (does Nerf even make milspec equipment?).

We move from there to the recruitment of a new team member, airlifted out of SEAL training, and into a mission that couldn't wait for him to finish training. The author takes this opportunity to personalize SEAL Team 666, and by the time the mission briefing is finished, you need everything you need to know about the team to actually care about whether or not they survive the mission.

And so it goes -- the story is fast-paced and moves like a SEAL trainee doing a four-mile timed run. Ultimately, I'd have liked some more variety in the characters, but the characters as presented aren't bad; it just seems to me that in a world where magic and maleific forces are verifiable, that confronting them with a team of shooters doesn't seem particularly effective. Where are the sorcerors on our side? Where are the priests, shamens, and other holy men? If magic and miracles are solid fact, it seems strange that an organization older than our country wouldn't have their own practitioners. -- David Medinnus

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