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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
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on September 22, 2012
I enjoy the Walking Dead franchise and have enjoyed other zombie apocalypse novels so I thought this has to be no-brainer for me to read. Instead it turned out to be a no-brainer... period. Even being a fan of WD I found this book painful. I can generally overlook a few mistakes assuming I can get into and follow an interesting plot line. But the mistakes were so many that I just couldn't get past them.

Firstly, the writing was awkward. It used a third-person, present tense that was difficult to read. The kind of tense that a middle-school student might use in their first attempt at fiction. The author, presumably an established horror writer, seemed to get stuck using the same expressions over and over. "Thunderstruck" was something that every character seemed to be at some point. How many times did the characters feel "gravitational forces suck" them back or forward in the car. Really? It's called inertia, even if you are trying to be poetic how many times can you use the same expression? The over-use of metaphor and simile were more than a little annoying, again reminding me of a juvenile author's first attempts.

Secondly, the characters were two-dimensional. I couldn't empathize with a single one of them. The humanity of the characters (at least the human ones) in the WD series is what makes it so compelling and enjoyable. It's not just about monsters, it's how people interact and deal with the cards they have been dealt. This story missed the mark. I understand this was supposed about the characters losing their humanity but they should have first started with some.

Finally, the facts, or lack thereof, were impossible to overlook. I will not get into all the problems in the story, the "Ford S-10" has already been mentioned in other reviews. As has the "high powered rifle/20 gauge shotgun" and the .22 caliber pistol that blows heads clean off. And using a radiator hose to siphon gas? Has the author ever tried this? I am willing to guess the answer is no. And I have boxes of cereal that have been in my pantry for longer than 6 weeks and they aren't crawling with worms quite yet.

Overall, I have to say that I was "thunderstuck" by the poor job on this one. It seemed as if it might have been rushed to press to capitalize on the Walking Dead franchise as quickly as possible. With little attention given to quality. It's as if the publisher was saying.. "it won't matter, people will love it anyway, lets just churn something out and grab the cash". Sadly, perhaps they were correct given the number of 5 star reviews. One reviewer wrote "I haven't read it yet but I am giving it 5 stars!" ????

I give it one star out of respect to Bob Kirkman (and because that's the minimum)... but please don't don't make this kind of writing the new status-quo. And please hire a good editor for the next installment.
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on April 6, 2012
(Warning: Possible Spoilers for the upcoming Television Season as well as for those who have not yet read the graphic novels but intend to.)

For those not in the know, `The Governor' is one of the primary villains in The Walking Dead universe. (He is set to make his grand entrance later this year when Season Three launches, more info here: [...] ). The man is a vile, misogynistic psychopath who thrives on terror, torture, and rape. He rules a small, barricaded enclave of humanity through psychological manipulation and heinous acts of violence. The hero of The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes, and his motley crew have the severe misfortune of crossing paths with The Governor and his like-minded cronies fairly early in the graphic novels. The ultimate outcome, which I won't ruin here, is as naturally chaotic and destructive as the world around them.

The Rise of the Governor (RotG) tells the back story of Phillip Blake, the man who eventually become The Governor, and his small band as they try to survive the early stages of `The Event': whatever it was that caused the dead to rise and begin making unhappy meals out of the breathing populace. On some levels it succeeds, but when it fails it truly comes up short.

Taking the work out of context, reading it simply as another post-apocalyptic novel and not part of a larger tapestry, its tragic flaw is a slow opening. Yes, zombies pop out of the shadows at every turn and Phillip Blake and his friends narrowly dispatch them in gruesome fashion. It's a zombie novel; that is par for the course. You can almost feel it coming: `been a few pages now, time for some more undead head bashing'.

By slow opening, I speak in terms of character arc. Phillip Blake himself never really rises above the shallow, narrowly defined persona of an inherently bad man whose sole saving grace is his love for his daughter. His brother Brian, a weak willed Bohemian, spends most of the novel as a cowering nursemaid to his niece Penny and when he finally does come unto his own it feels unnatural and forced. Nick, a family friend, is vaguely religious but this, too, seems like a wooden attribute that is meant to further the story instead of being a natural and real aspect of character that the story molds itself around. And these are the good characters, the ones that feel like they have some sort of meat on their literary bones. Everyone else is forgettable, the equivalent of red shirts from the Star Trek mythos. Someone has to get eaten, right?

So, judging RotG on its own merits, the book is merely adequate. Furthermore I found the use of present tense ("Brian sees a cloud of smoke in the distance and instantly feels tense," for example) an odd and distracting device used to tell the tale. I think the authors were attempting a sense of tension with this mechanism, and to their credit sometimes it worked. For the most part though it was like watching a movie from Britain or Australia: it takes a while to get used to the accent and you're pissed that you have to expend the effort instead of just getting to enjoy the flick.

RotG is not, however, an isolated island as any true zombie fan knows. For Walking Dead Heads such as myself, I hesitantly recommend it. In its favor: it is a quick read. As just an out-of-my-ass guestimate I would put it at about a 10th grade reading level.

Some bones are thrown out for those of us who have read all the previous source material. Ever wonder who put up that sign on that gated community Rick and co. stumble across that read "All Dead Inside"? Well, now you'll get to find out. Curious as to how Penny got to her current state? Explained.

Yet the biggest question, the fulcrum upon which the whole work is set: "Who is The Governor and how did he come to be?" will leave you either pleased or non plussed. Personally, I found the answer to that question, as given in RotG, serviceable if a bit predictable. Then again, I read and write a lot more than most people. It's hard to surprise me. As with all art, your experience may vary.

If you count yourself among the legions of diehard fans of `The Walking Dead', this book will offer a moderately pleasing inside look into one of the arch-villains Rick Grimes has to compete against for survival. If you are searching for a stand-alone zombie novel, keep looking. Like the devastated world in which it is set, very little life to be found here.

7.5/10 Stars if you are a fan of `The Walking Dead', 5.5 if not.
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on December 28, 2011
This book is co-authoread and that may be part of the problem. This book leaned too far into graphic horror details and less on the common human bonds exhibited by the characters fighting their way through the horror. This may be due having Bonansinga, a veteran horror author, as a co-author. As a result the book lacks the humanity and the triumph of the human spirit needed to balance out the graphic details.

Also, Deduct a star for factual errors - If you are writing a "muzzle velocity" book you need to get your facts straight. For example, a twenty guage is LESS powerful than a twelve guage.
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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon October 13, 2011
With The Walking Dead achieving mammoth amounts of popularity thanks to the long running comic and the smash hit TV series adaptation, creator Robert Kirkman teams up with horror writer Jay Bonansinga to detail the backstory of The Governor, who may be one of the most evil villains to ever appear in the pages of a comic book ever. Just how did The Governor get to be how he was in the pages of The Walking Dead? Well, this novel The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor, picks up a few days into the zombie apocalypse, as estranged brothers Philip and Brian, along with Philip's young daughter Penny and a couple others, try to survive the perils of plague-stricken rural Georgia. Along the way they come across other survivors and hordes of undead, with some major shocking events taking place that set the stage for the birth of the cruel man who is way more dangerous than an onslaught of zombies could ever be. With some twists aplenty and a gut-punch of a final act, The Walking Dead: Rise of The Governor is engaging and page-turning, but it doesn't do anything else than tell an origin story, and even at that, by the time the big twist at the end happens, it feels like a bit of a cheat. All that aside, Rise of the Governor is more than worth your time if you're a Walking Dead fanatic, and it is a nice companion piece to the prolific survival horror series.
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on March 15, 2012
I want to start this review by pointing out that this may be a bit bias as I am a huge fan of graphic novels and the television show. I could not put this book down. Without giving away any spoilers, this is a very unique story of how an evil mastermind comes to power and the trials and tribulations he faced on the way in a world full of walkers. The story is solid and the twist at the end is worth the read. I was very impressed with the plot, how it tied in with the graphic novel and thought it was an amazing transition from graphic novel to text. I'm hoping this is one of many books in the future and would recommend this book to any fan of The Walking Dead.
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on November 13, 2012
Overall story line is good and a quick read easy read. The co-author goes overboard with zombie smashing details and knowns nothing about guns or the military despite attempting to write like he does. Things like "the Ruger .22 recoiling in his hand" or the "Delta Force Marine" comment or the 20 ga "goose gun", just annoying, do some research for Gods sake. Find another co-author.
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on March 12, 2012
I like to start off by saying I enjoyed this book and completed it in two sittings.

Overall the story was exactly what I expected out of "franchise" series type book. Common themes, known characters and in this case a lot of zombies being killed with everything from Harley's to random metal objects.

The book provides back story on the Governor character from the comic; as such the title is a little misleading. The rise is not cover per se, but folks familiar to the comic will be able to connect the dots from when this story ends and the Governor first appears graphic novels. I imagine if the show continues its success on television; there will be more books which is a good thing. Additionally there are a few tie-ins to the Grimes story sprinkled through out the book; which helps a little with "universe" building.

With most Zombie movies/stories their are several situations where I think I would not have done what character X does, but that is to be expected with the territory. This happens a lot; the characters seem to have no problem wasting resources; abandoning things you would treat like gold and finding new resources!

I recommend the book, just don't expect too much!
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on December 21, 2011
The title says it all. When reading this, by all means, keep a mental note of how many similes you come across. Merge that count with metaphors, and you'll barely make a page without seeing them. And that's saying a lot, because if you are even a reasonably paced reader, you'll grind through this in a day or so.
But of course, that is just the tip of the two-star iceberg. The story is hardly engaging, with one-dimensional characters, and a seemingly forced nod to elements within the comic. While I could deal with seeing maybe one part of the comic time-line in the book, did they really have to go so far as to create a cliched "OH WOW, SO HE DID THAT?!" moment? I may have audibly groaned when I read that. And of course there are inaccuracies, such as any sort of firearm in the world packing the punch of a hand cannon, and zombies exploding like water balloons, to name a few (Even the most iron jawed folks in the world can't bite through jeans and manage to take out half a leg and unmentionables in a single bite). All things considered, the word zombie was used often enough to make me frown in disappointment.
The writing was averagely average, and I'm certain that prior to editing, it may have looked like a high school effort to create some sort of dramatic effect. Perhaps I am spoiled by Stephen King's (mostly) incredible writing style, and the sense of dread and suspense he brings to his works. Unfortunately, with this train wreck, you tend to always get a warning first, sometimes literally telling you something bad is going to happen. The rest of the time it says the same thing, only in different words.
One other obvious writer flaw I have noticed. When non-badass people try to write the dialogue of actual badass people, it comes across as ridiculous. Many of us have had periods in our lives where we ran with the wrong crowd, or hung out with the neighborhood tough guy. This sounds nothing like them. It comes across as stilted, forced, and weird.
The ending, if the plethora of spoilers in the reviews haven't already ruined it for you, wasn't 100% predictable, but it's more like 98% predictable. Not believable by any stretch of the imagination, but predictable. But it was an ending at least, of a novel that consisted of "Go to location A, zombies. Go to location B, zombies and survivors. Someone breaks down because the world sucks. Hilarity ensues."

A warning. If you like the comics and show, don't buy this. DO.NOT.BUY.THIS.
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on August 13, 2014
Let me start by saying - I wanted to like this book. I've been a fan of the Walking Dead comics since the series started in 2003. I was overjoyed to see it adapted into a TV series (despite some major changes from the source material). I really haven't kept up with a lot of the additional merchandise, as it seems that it's gotten a little out of hand. When I stumbled across Rise of the Governor at a local library, I decided to give it a shot. I went in completely blind with no knowledge of the novel outside of the synopsis on the back cover.

While the concept and the story itself is entertaining, the writing is terrible. To put that in perspective - it is the worst writing I have ever seen in an actual published novel. I've read movie adaptations that are far superior. Hell, I've read better fan fiction. I read the entire book, hoping that it would get better. It doesn't.

The complaints are numerous, from the author clearly having NO knowledge of Georgia (or a desire to fact-check himself with even a cursory Google search), to factual errors, typographical errors, and even continuity problems. Many of the factual errors have already been addressed in other reviews, but to use an example: at one point in the novel, the characters are driving a "Ford S10." Really? A lot of the errors are like this. In another section, it is August, then September, then August again with no explanation. Then there are things like a cool August morning in Georgia (unlikely) to frost setting in by October (extremely unlikely). And don't even get me started on the repeated use of the word "zombie" even though it's a pivotal point that the dead are intentionally NEVER referred to as "zombies" in the comics or TV show. It's not clear if the author simply doesn't care enough to do any research on things he doesn't know about, believes he knows everything, or assumes his readers are all idiots. They're all pretty damning offenses, however you look at it.

Even if you can look past the myriad errors, the writing itself is awkward and does not flow well. Certain turns of phrase are overused (count how many times someone or something emerges from, disappears into, or peers into "the shadows," or a walker is referred to as an "upright corpse") and unnecessary adjectives are everywhere. In many places, it seems the author wrote a passage, then pulled out his thesaurus and found the most obscure, archaic adjective he could replace a simple word with. The whole things shows a general indifference on the author's part as to the integrity of his writing and the intelligence of his readers.

After finishing the book, I couldn't believe that Robert Kirkman co-authored this and that it was allowed to be published in this state. I did a little research online and found some enlightening info: first, it appears that Kirkman's part as "co-author" is to write a synopsis of the plot (8-10 pages) and let Jay Bonansinga write the novel. Bonansinga, it appears, is a failed screenwriter who decided to turn his efforts to horror novels. This explained a lot to me, as the dialogue in the novel is probably the only thing that's halfway decent. I don't understand, however, how Bonansinga can write for 20 years and not get better than this.

The copy of the book I had included a one-chapter preview of the second novel (Road to Woodbury). I thought that perhaps Rise of the Governor was a fluke, and surely these problems would be fixed by the second book. No one could read this whole thing and be pleased with the end result. I was immediately proven wrong. The first chapter of the second book was filled with the same problems and cemented for me that I am done with this series, at least until they ditch Bonansinga. I'm not sure what it says about other fans of The Walking Dead that there are now 5 full-length novels in this series, all bestsellers, but I can say that if the zombies haven't already eaten your brains, skip them.
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