For the first time in four years there isn’t a new Walking Dead Governor novel this October. Starting in The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor in 2011 followed by The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury in 2012, Robert Kirkman the creator of the Walking Dead has been showering fans of the comics and AMC series with a new novel each October. The controversial decision to split the final book in the trilogy into two (2013 and early 2014) caused quite a bit of negative feedback. Now that we have the whole series complete it’s time to dig deeper into a “trilogy” that had all the makings of a fan favorite.
In parts 1 and 2 we find Lily Caul struggling to find her place in the world and with the Governor after her failed attempt to depose him in book 2. What she comes to believe is that a person like the Governor is necessary in this new harsh world. So when outsiders threaten she takes up for Woodbury and the Governor and takes the battle to Rick and the other attackers at the prison. But, and this isn’t much of a spoiler but consider yourself warned in case, things don’t go that way when Lily becomes pregnant and starts to think of the world she wants for her baby rather than simply surviving. When the time comes to take the fight to the prison there comes a moment where she has to decide if she truly wants to continue to follow the Governor or if there is a better way.
This series is set in the world of the Walking Dead comic book rather than the AMC series. That’s an important distinction for followers and potential readers as the timelines of each of distinctive and very large plot differences exist. What I found though was that this was not well fit in the comic series and instead formed a new third world. Starting in books 3 and 4, the Fall, where we finally see the interaction between the Governor and our heroes from the comic (Rick, Michonne, and so on) we see even more large differences in continuity. How Rick et al. escape, what happens next, what happens with Michonne and her revenge, the battle at the prison, how it ends, and even how the Governor dies are all different than the comic. While the main plot points that I just wrote exist in both, how they are carried out changes. Without spoiling too much one would only need to look at how Penny is treated in the comics verses these novels, including her second death, to see what I mean. Readers of both will immediately find themselves set aback, saying, “Wait, what?” It’s almost like Kirkman wanted to re-write some of the comic from so many years ago and did so in the novels.
The writing seems weaker than in the first two books as well, although all three seem to be cut from the same cloth when it comes to filling in details. I’m not sure which writer fleshed the details out with overused unusual descriptive phrases but they bug after a while. How many times have we heard about something in the “middle distance?” Or someone “masticating?” Everyone wears “Chambray” clothes. Fences are always “cyclone” fencing. Guns are “Bushmasters.” And describing the massive amounts of killing and gore can be hard but it seemed like every time it was some variation of “blood mist,” “blood splatter,” “blood spout,” or “blood spray” and then substitute “red” or “pink” with the same for “pink mist” and “red splatter” just to change things up. There are even “purple mists” every so often as even the author must have realized the overuse of the colors. Then substitute “brain” or “skull” or “spinal fluid” for a color and you have a whole new set of visuals.
If you take this series as it’s own story and don’t try to fit it into the continuity of the comics you’ll likely enjoy these books as standard zombie fare. If you are looking for more backstory on the comics then I recommend you stop after the first novel, which brilliantly worked through the rise of Philip Blake. The second novel takes a detour with Lily Caul, which is interesting as well, but not necessarily what we may have expected from the series on the Governor.
In my opinion, the series should have ended with Rick and the Governor shaking hands. It would have naturally led directly to the comics and it wouldn’t have had to rehash old battles that we’ve now read, watched and read again – all differently. It would also have naturally fit into the continuity without changing a story that readers love.
But no matter what I say here and however many reviewers bring up the weak writing, the poor decision to split the novels or the discontinuity fans are gonna read these novels. And for the most part fans are going to enjoy them. After all I said above the fact is that I still enjoyed these books myself and if Kirkman and Bonansinga wrote more I’d read more.
A note about the readers: Fred Berman does a great job once again of working through the anger and violence of the Walking Dead books. After four books his voice to me is not synonymous with the Governor’s. He does a good job working with different characters and you can hear and feel the differences.
@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.
This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.