As most fans of the Romero Zombie films know, DOTD didn't turn out the way George Romero wanted. Having envisioned a story about how the government and military would deal with the problems of zombies, budgetary issues transformed it into a story about eight guys dealing with the zombie apocalypse. Some of which, whom, were soldiers.It's a testament to George Romero's skill as a filmmaker some interesting points about the military, isolation, and society were still made despite general agreement it's the weakest of the initial four movies. Peter Clines, unrestricted by Hollywood budget, gets to expand the response for how the military deals with the situation.
Likewise, as he's stated in numerous interviews and the book's afterword, the author's not interested in vilifying the military either. Instead, he strikes a careful balance between treating the military as mostly fundamentally decent people and the fact that their training and rules are ill-suited to the Post-Apocalyptic world that they've found themselves in. They're trying to guard a few survivors and re-build humanity but find themselves immediately in an antagonistic role with the Mount and its protectors. They see the survivors there as ultimately under their authority because they're American citizens and the superheroes as potential assets despite the fact the United States is effectively destroyed.
Ironically, I think Peter Clines gives some nastier and more cutting satire of the military than he might have had he treated them as the "EVUL military" zombie movies usually do. The army's then-controversial "Stop Loss" program and internment being justified under real life present-day laws works as a much more powerful indictment of current abuses of power than any amount of DOTD "evil soldiers" could. This is not Independence Day jingoism, also referenced in the book, and we see that the military is able to mount an effective offense against the zombies but is not able to win.
It's a nice medium between the usual, "the military would utterly crush a zombie apocalypse" and "the military is too stupid to beat the zombies" which seems to be the usual two extremes faced in zombie fiction. World War Z, for example, has plenty of detractors for its depiction of the US military's handling of the situation. Honestly, I think plenty of people will disagree with Peter Cline's depiction of the US armed forces but they at least are allowed to keep their dignity despite their role in the book.
Ultimately, though, the book is about the superheroes of the Mount as opposed to the military base they find within the confines of the book. Zzap, Stealth, Saint George, Cerberus, and the new character of the Driver are all given ample screen time. Amusingly, I like to think of this book as the third and fourth trade paperback of the series as much as I do it as a novel. The book feels even more comic book-y than its predecessor and that's not an indictment. With the zombie apocalypse out of the way, we can focus more on superheroes kicking butt and taking names. If there's one complaint I have, it's the fact that it's a little TOO much like a comic book in terms of character development.
Despite being almost a year after the events of the first book, the characters are pretty much where we left them. Saint George is still pining hopelessly for Stealth, Stealth is slightly less frosty but still keeping everyone at arm's length, Queen Bee is still offering herself to Saint George for guilt-free sex, etc. I wouldn't mind if Peter Clines did a little more character development in terms of everyone's relationships and where exactly they're going.
The new character of Captain Freedom is a bit over-the-top compared to the more grounded characters of the Mount but is a worthy addition to the ranks. I'm less sold on the Driver but still liked him despite having less background on him than others. Frankly, the oddest thing I have to say in this review is I'm pleased that Peter Clines included an ethnic minority as a major character. Not enough books remember to do that. I also became very fond of the character Corpse Girl even if I wasn't a huge fan of her retrograde amnesia condition as I felt that limited her character development. That may be foolish on my part as I believe Peter Clines handled it quite well.
I really enjoyed Ex-Patriots and if this was a comic book then I would buy every issue. I am officially on board with the series and will state that I am sure this book is about equal with the original. Even if I don't like some of the elements, these complaints are very mild. The book is a fun mixture of action, heroism, social satire, and comic book references that make it delightfully fun even when the situation is grim and horrible.