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An Inspired Idea About An Exceptional Character--A Engaging Read That Breaks Little New Ground
on August 24, 2011
The inevitable expansion of "The Walking Dead" universe continues, and I suppose it was only a matter of time before the series ventured into the realm of novelization. Having been a huge Dead fan since the first graphic novels, I have watched the enterprise turn into an outright phenomenon. Having reviewed every other incarnation of the franchise (all of the graphic novels, collectibles, and AMC's television production), I jumped at the chance to pick up this collaboration by series creator Robert Kirkman and tidy horror writer Jay Bonansinga. "The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor" is an inspired idea for a novel. The Governor is one of the series' most notorious and loathsome villains--and the notion of exploring his back story will undoubtedly be appealing to fans of his dark power.
Well, it turns out that the Governor may not be as different as you might imagine. In many ways, this tale is a familiar survival story. Beginning in the first days of the zombie outbreak, the narrative follows the trials and tribulations of a small band of ragged survivors (including the man who will become The Governor, his brother, lifelong friends, and a little girl). As expected, we see the collective attempt to understand the new world order. Trying to exist in a suburban community, followed by a stint in the city, followed by isolationism--the band tries various strategies to build a new life. Every time peace seems to settle, the real world comes crashing down in the form of a new undead or even human menace. At what point does someone meet their rational limit? The novel takes us on the journey of The Governor until he reaches exactly that spot and then pushes to the other side. The final two chapters, especially, bring everything together in quite momentous ways.
It might be a bit misleading calling this "The Rise of the Governor" (a more apt title might have been The Birth of the Governor). The book ends where you might expect if you are a fan of the series (with a few familiar characters)--but it is really only the starting point of a new chapter. In truth, this version of The Walking Dead saga doesn't break any new ground dramatically or thematically. Reliant on action set pieces, the book feels eminently cinematic. In reading the adventure, you can almost visualize the action as it takes place. It's solidly constructed, easy to read, and fast paced. I read the book in one day which is something that I almost never do. Ultimately, though, I had hoped for something a little less expected and unique to such a colorful character. The book is easy to like. I just wanted to be blown away by a fresh and original story and I feel that I've traveled these roads many times in other zombie lore. There is a bit of fun paralleling the locales and challenges of the Governor's crew with the original protagonists of the graphic novels. But you don't have to be a fervent fan to enjoy this solid novel. This can definitely work as a stand alone piece but it has more impact, however, if you actually know who the Governor is! A good and fun effort that, ultimately, doesn't add a huge new dimension to the ongoing saga. KGHarris, 8/11