Top critical review
2 people found this helpful
on January 5, 2014
It took me nearly a year to sludge through the barren wasteland that is Bonansinga's first of Kirkman's novel "trilogy." I'd start and stop, restart and stop, and finally... after the release of the most recent novel (Fall of the Governor: Part One), I decided to finally put my mind to finishing these once and for all.
Part One, appropriately titled "The Hollow Men", is more telling than the novel is itself. The first section is full of every possible description of splattering a brain. It's hard to read. Not because it's all that graphic, but because it's written by someone who has no grasp of word flow or writing in general. It's a mouthful. If the book was edited and all of the useless, agonizing metaphors and similes were removed, the book would be a good 40 - 70 pages shorter. We have no reason to care for the Blakes (other than our previous knowledge through other media) and we definitely have no reason to care for the hollow, two dimensional cannon fodder that surround them.
Part Two is where things pick up. The metaphors almost vanish and fans of the show may feel a little more at home with the plot. Without spoiling too much, if you enjoyed the mini-arc displayed in the season 4 episode, "Live Bait", you'll have no problem understanding what the poor writing is trying to convey. The Chalmers family is a breath of fresh air in this wordy book. Arguably, the show did a much better job at consolidating and moving this arc along in a way that feels less contrived.
The conclusion isn't satisfying. Characters change motivations through unreal circumstances and become totally unrecognizable by the end. However, the final two parts of the novel are the most satisfying. As much as that contradicts itself, it's the only thing that truly makes sense here. The beginning doesn't hook you at all. The ending "plot twist" is ridiculous and it doesn't make sense. It's 300+ pages of misdirection. It's a slap in the face and not in the "oh, you're so clever" way. Brian is a weak, useless character. You see no growth in him at all. As a reader, you're focused on the evolution of Philip himself (and boy, he changes alright). By the time you reach the ending, (presumably contrived for the sole purpose of shock value) it all just falls flat.
Seeing familiar faces near the end from both the comic and show is a nice treat and a nice setup for things to come. However, with a beginning like this, it's hard to imagine that I'll enjoy the remaining novels in the series. The show does a far better job at conveying the same story arc (and in less time than it takes to navigate the murky prose of this novel).
The plot itself isn't a bad one. That probably came from Kirkman's outline. The superfluous descriptions and the try-hard metaphors lead me to believe that a thesaurus is Bonansinga's best friend. I found myself scanning pages towards the end to find significant plot details. We'll spend chapters talking about unnecessary information yet only allow two short, staccato sentences for a major character death.
Overall, this book is one of the hardest I've ever read. It doesn't flow as well as the gray matter does from a temporal lobe. If you're a fan of the TV series or comic, you'd be better off reading a summary of the major plot details on Wikipedia. It'll save you several splitting headaches.