The superhero formerly known as the Mighty Dragon wakes up to a world where the zombie apocalypse never happened, and he's just a normal janitor. In his dreams, George Bailey is falling. When he hits the ground he is immediately surrounded by walking dead people who try to attack him. George wakes up to the sound of his ceiling fan chain clicking against the fan, hauls himself out of bed, and goes to work at the nearby university where he works in the maintenance department. As he goes from job to job, he notices a billboard advertisement with the picture of a stunning, dark-skinned woman - Karen Quilt, one of the most famous models in America. When changing out the glass from a broken picture window, George is knocked from his ladder. The jagged, broken glass falls all around him, including a large chunk that tears through his clothing but, somehow, doesn't actually pierce his skin. On his way back to his car, George is confronted by a young woman in a wheelchair named Madelyn Sorenson, who introduces herself as the Corpse Girl and tells George that he is, in fact, a superhero formerly known as the Mighty Dragon, and that the entire world ended in an apocalypse in 2009. George dismisses the girl and, near his car, sees a young woman being assaulted by what appears to be a disheveled, pale, walking corpse. The thing turns out to just be a drunk college kid, however, and George drives home. His car breaks down, however, and George enters a nearby Army recruiting station where he meets a massive soldier named Lieutenant Freedom. Freedom's men give George's car a jump, and he goes on his way. The next day, George wakes again, goes back to work, and, at lunch, is once again confronted by Madelyn. She tells him more about their lives, where Quilt is known as the hero Stealth, and George also works alongside a hero named Zzzap. George goes back to work and, on a whim, calls out to Barry Burke, who Madelyn insists is Zzzap. While they are talking, George experiences a piercing headache and passes out. When he wakes, the entire world around him is dim, filled with destroyed cars, run-down buildings, and the shambling undead. The world shifts back to normal, and George seeks out Madelyn. She tells him that the current President, John Smith, is in fact a supervillain with the power to mentally influence people and, more than likely, has George and the rest of the heroes in some sort of dream world. George tracks down Karen Quilt and manages to talk his way to her hotel room, where he tries to convince her that they do in fact know each other, but Quilt has no memory of him. On his way back to his car George is abducted by a group of black-clad people who turn out to be Secret Service agents. President Smith speaks to George and convinces him that he is nothing more than a janitor and that, in fact, the girl is just lying to him. Madelyn confronts him again but George brushes her off, only to find out that he is being let go from his job. Madelyn shows up at his apartment and, before George can react, shoots him. Karen Quilt comes to the hospital room where George is recovering with only minor bruising around his ribs. The doctor believes that the bullet managed to bounce off him just right, but Quilt knows that George wasn't shot just once - Madelyn shot him eleven times. George talks to Barry again and convinces him to come to Los Angeles, and, after the conversation, George and Karen duck into a bar to figure out their next move. As they are talking, the pair are almost overcome by massive headaches that cause them to almost black out, but when they come to they remember their former lives, and see the bar for what it is - a run-down, looted wasteland. George and Stealth agree to get to the recruiting station to pick up Freedom, only to find that Dr. Danielle Morris, otherwise known as the pilot of the massive battlesuit Cerberus, is there with her suit for a demonstration. The world flickers around the group again, revealing the shambling zombies, so the group makes a break for it and heads for Madelyn's dorm. With Madelyn in tow, the heroes decide to head back to the Mount, the fortress they built from the remains of a Hollywood studio. Stealth wants to return to her hotel room to pick up some weapons, but when she gets back there all she finds is the illusion of her father and some more zombies. Meanwhile, on the street, Freedom and Madelyn find Barry stuck in a taxi cab. He flew in from New Mexico, only for the world to shift back to the apocalypse while he was in the cab. The heroes get to the Mount, only to find a massive hole in the Big Wall, the barrier made from old cars and other building materials the heroes used to protect the Mount. The heroes find a woman named Christian Nguyen in Stealth's old office; she seems to be the only living human being in the Mount. Christian, never a big fan of the heroes, tells George that he himself came and destroyed the wall. Soon after, Stealth realizes, and tells the group, that the world around them is another illusion. Once they broke free of Smith's original illusion, where none of them had powers, he trapped them in an illusion based on the real world. Stealth has Freedom throw George out of a window, but before he hits the ground he wakes up in one of the Mount's abandoned buildings. The other heroes are arranged on the floor around him, but he can't wake them up. He goes to find Smith, but instead ends up in the office of the new mayor - Christian Nguyen. Christian soon reveals that she is, in fact, Smith - or at least a copy of Smith's powers wormed their way into Christian's brain and essentially replaced the woman's entire personality. Christian, using Smith's powers, convinces Lieutenant Gibbons, the only one other than Danielle who can pilot the Cerberus suit, to attack George. While the two battle, Danielle arrives and attempts to disable the armor, and Stealth arrives and tries to attack Christian. Christian uses her powers and convinces Stealth to act as her personal bodyguard, ordering Stealth to be on the lookout for potential threats. Danielle comes from behind the two and shoots Christian. Christian's powers didn't work because of how Smith worded the command - Stealth didn't perceive Danielle as any sort of threat to her, therefore Danielle could act against Christian without Stealth intervening. After placing Christian in a medically induced coma, George and Stealth settle in once again as the protectors of the Mount.
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Best part of story, including ending:
Another of Cline's "Ex" novels, this one featured the world within a world mysteries prevalent in comics and movies such as The Matrix and Inception. However, Cline has fallen back on only two major villains over the course of his four "Ex" novels and, while the use of Smith seemed novel, it also seemed somewhat repetitive.
Best scene in story:
The final battle between George and Gibbons (inside the Cerberus suit) shows that George, while invulnerable, is not immortal - Cerberus almost kills George but, thanks to the intervention of Danielle and Zzzap, he manages to survive the test.
Opinion about the main character:
Madelyn finds George within Smith's illusion because she knows he is one of the strongest heroes, both physically and mentally, and that he stands the best chance of breaking free from Smith's influence. She is proven right, and George immediately goes to confront the threat with little thought for his own well-being.