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Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor

The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor



Thomas Dunne Books, 2011

Robert Kirkman, Jay Bonansinga


If you’ve been reading the ‘Walking Dead’ comic books (and if you haven’t
then you really should) then you won’t need me to tell you just who the
Governor is and the influence that he has had on the lives of Rick Grimes and
his friends. I’m prepared to bet that a number of you are thinking, ‘the
Governor, what a bastard...’ right now.

If you’re not reading the comic books and are just watching the TV series
instead, you know that you will see the Governor be a major focus in season 3.
He’s too evil a character not to feature in one form or another and I’m pretty
confident in saying that you all have some great television headed your way
when he turns up. It’ll be near the knuckle stuff though, you have been
warned... (FYI At the time of writing this review, season 3 just started.)

Zombie media is great at showing the reader (or viewer, whatever) how a
character can develop in certain ways when faced with the all-encompassing fear
of a zombie apocalypse. People are thrown back on their own resources and will
often have to do unspeakable things if they want to survive another day; they
will often end up a completely different person to how they began. The Governor
differs here in that when we first meet him he is already capable of some pretty
sickening stuff. So... what happened? Was the Governor always like this or did
something happen, during those early days of the zombie uprising, that forced
him down a particular path?

Robert Kirkman has teamed up with thriller writer Jay Bonansinga to fill in
that gap and the result is just what you would expect from the creator of ‘The
Walking Dead’. You’re going to need a strong stomach to read this book but it’s
more than worth it in the end.

The dead are walking and Philip Blake’s life will never be the same again. The
only constant let over (from a former life that already seems like a dream) is
his seven year old daughter Penny and Philip will do whatever takes to make
sure that she survives.

Rumor has it that refugee centers are being set up in Atlanta so Philip and
Penny aim to make their way there along with Philip’s brother and two old high
school friends. Atlanta isn’t far away, as the crow flies, but in a new world
where the dead are looking to eat the living... Atlanta is now a lot further away
than anyone thought. Our band of survivors will do whatever they can to get to
the city but not only are there thousands of zombies in the way but Atlanta
might not be as safe as everyone thought. Philip Blake’s problems are only just

Every so often I’ll come across a book where I’ll find myself stopping and
thinking, ‘what the... did I just read that?’ You know what I mean; the writer
really goes for the throat and you find yourself physically shocked by what’s
happening on the page. ‘The Rise of the Governor’ is not one of those books,
preferring instead to take things to another level and set out to shock you
pretty much every couple of pages. And it succeeds. ‘The Rise of the Governor’
makes for visceral, bloody and downright brutal reading that I just couldn’t
put down. Kirkman and Bonansinga’s team up proves that Kirkman’s creation can
live just as well on the printed page as it does in the comic book.

That’s not to say that it’s all perfect though. The journey that Philip Blake
makes is arduous to say the least and one development led me to wonder whether
Kirkman and Bonansinga took pity on the group and decided to let them rest up
for a bit. The safe shelter that they find is a little too safe and drastic
action is needed to move them on and keep the story flowing. Therein lies the
problem, it’s clear that the plot needs to keep moving and one particularly
powerful scene (seriously, the weather gets involved and everything!) is
rendered nothing more than a really transparent plot device there to kick-start
the plot. Talk about being taken right out of a book (which was hitherto really
easy to get into) and having it shown for what it is...

This is a real shame as the rest of the book, both before and after this point,
absolutely rocks and I’m eager to see how Kirkman and Bonansinga tie the next
two books into the ongoing ‘Walking Dead’ continuity (although it’s not a
hundred percent clear whether the book will tie into the comic book plot or
that of the TV show, my money is on the comic book personally).

When the dead start trying to eat bits of the living, civilization crumbles
fast and that puts a lot of pressure on the people trying to live in the ruins.
Nowhere is this clearer than in the characters of Philip and Brian Blake, two men
just trying to do the right thing by the people that they love. Kirkman and
Bonansinga throw everything they can at Philip in particular and you can’t help
but root for him as he struggles to overcome another setback (and discovers
levels of savagery that he was previously unaware of), even though long term
fans will know how his story ultimately plays out. Or will they? There is one
hell of a twist, right at the end, which casts new light on everything and
makes prospect of the next two books just that little more enticing.

Before you get to that bit, there is a whole wasteland of the zombie apocalypse
to work your way through; jammed full of zombies and the worst elements of what
is left of humanity. Kirkman and Bonansinga use this backdrop to great effect,
pulling no punches in showing us just how tough life has suddenly become for
Philip and his friends. ‘The Rise of the Governor’ is full of frantic moments
where streets suddenly fill up with zombies, cars break down and safe shelter
is proved to be anything but. Kirkman and Bonansinga set out to show us just
what people will do to survive and Philip Blake learns some hard lessons along
the way. For the reader... Prepare to feel your heart race like mad and
remember to breathe every now and then, this is a book where it’s all too easy
to take a breath and forget to let it out.

‘The Rise of the Governor’ comes to a clanking halt mid-way through but stays
in fifth gear long enough for it not to be a major issue; there are more than
enough shocks and zombies to keep you going. I cannot wait for the next book.

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