Rise of the Governor by Kirkman and Bonansinga

The dead are walking – and eating – the living. No one knows how or why. The only concern is survival. This first novel in the cultural phenomenon that is The Walking Dead takes the reader back to the beginning and those first frantic days in the late Georgian summer focusing on a small group of survivors trying to get to Atlanta’s rumored safe zone.

The Rise of the Governor
The Walking Dead
By Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
Read by Fred Berman
Thomas Dunne Books / Macmillan Audio
October 2011

As the novel starts we find Philip Blake, his daughter Penny, his brother Brian, and his two friends Bobby and Nick clearing a house in an outlying suburb of Atlanta killing “biters”. The goal is Atlanta, but first a safe haven to rest. Unlike the television series that starts an indeterminate time after the outbreak or turn, this book takes the reader through those first horrible days as news reports start coming in detailing the rise of the undead through the terrifying losses of first some then all television, radio and news outlets and finally to the end of all infrastructure and utilities.

As the small group struggles through the masses of undead we find out what kind of people theses are and the darkness that lurks in each of them. Philip, the leader, is focused on the protection of his daughter to the exclusion of all others. His brother, Brian, a coward, loves his brother and is blind to the encroaching madness. Penny, a seven year old who has already seen her mother die years ago, struggles to cope with this new horror and retreats inside herself. While Bobby and Nick play roles but this story is ultimately about Blake family. (Which is a shame since Nick develops into one of the more interesting characters in the series – a religious man who holds on to his faith even through the outbreak and who isn’t a caricature of the faithful – but isn’t developed enough.)

As fans of the show, and movies in the genre, Atlanta’s safe zone doesn’t exist. Instead, the group finds thousands or even hundreds of thousands of zombies and no where to run. The story really hits its stride when the small group is saved by the Chalmers, a father and his two daughters hold up in an apartment complex. The group dynamic, and individual sanity, is changed forever when Philip makes a terrible choice forcing their exodus from Atlanta with nothing but the clothes on their back.

Ultimately, this story is about how the Governor rises to power in a small enclave of survivors in Woodbury. It is a complex and terrifying character study of a man’s descent into madness. For fans of books with great character development and for fans of this genre this book will definitely impress. It is filed with bloody, gory action; last second escapes (and not); and all the survival horror you can eat.

A note about the audio book: Berman does an excellent job channeling the anger and evil intentions of the characters. His voice modulation worked very well moving from marathon to character. The characters did sound almost the same at times and I had a hard time following who was speaking during intense conversations with a lot of back and forth. Overall this did not distract and I found myself easily lost in the story and rarely jolted out of it.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.