If you’re like me and love anything Walking Dead related AND love reading, this book will make your week. The Walking Dead is obviously an amazing comic-book series and a great TV show; however, I think one of the most frustrating aspects of both stories is that they focus only on the core group of survivors. Every so often readers or watchers will catch snippets of other groups but only in their interactions with Rick and company. With this book, there is finally some substantive insight into a completely different storyline. Also, for those who aren’t avid graphic novel readers, it’s nice to have a book sans pictures as part of the Walking Dead story.
As the title indicates, Rise of the Governor focuses on the notorious Governor of Woodbury; however, we don’t really know who he is. The story starts off with a group of survivors trying to make their way to Atlanta. Philip Blake is the protector and leader of the group, Brian Blake is his older but far less capable brother, Penny is Philip’s daughter, and Bobby and Nick are two of Philip’s friends. It’s early in the apocalypse and there are still some news channels and radio stations; lights are still working. They hole up in a luxurious house in a suburb; constructing a makeshift wall and planning to stick it out for awhile. That is, until a rogue zombie takes out one of the group and they decide to cut their losses and hit the road for Atlanta. Those who have read the comic may remember when Rick’s group finds a gated community and settles down for the night only to find zombies the next morning and sign that says “ALL DEAD, DO NOT ENTER.” Brian Blake painted that sign. A nice tie-in to the comics.
The group heads to Atlanta, overcoming various obstacles as Philip seems to be going a bit crazy, or a lot crazy. Penny almost gets eaten by a cop-zombie whom she thought would be able to help them (so innocent). They’re running for their lives, sans vehicle since it was crashed in a massive zombie killing spree (one of a few points in the book where comic illustrations would have really added something). Just as though it seems like there is no escaping the zombie horde, they hear a call from an apartment building and, after some hesitation, hurry inside to safety. There we are introduced to sisters Tara and April along with their ailing father, David. Again they attempt to settle in. The apartment building is safe and surrounded by a brick-walled courtyard, they are able to kill the other zombies in the building and spread out comfortably, and because it’s still in the city they are able to find supplies nearby or at least safely by using rooftops. Life for the group takes on a new normalcy until David dies and suddenly reanimates without being bitten. He is dispatched by Philip but things are never the same. Soon after, Philip makes a serious mistake and the group is forced (again) to be on the run without a vehicle. Through this all, I could only think that this whole Governor character is really starting to make sense. It has to be Philip but when does Penny turn zombie? He’s slowly losing his mind as the story progresses so it isn’t hard to understand how he becomes the twisted person in the comic.
Then they leave Atlanta and find an abandoned villa where (third time’s the charm?) they think they are safe. They are at this point without functioning firearms but with enough bludgeon-like items that they should be safe from zombies. But it the problem comes in the form of a gang of meth-heads who would also like to kill them. Long story (and exciting fight-out scene) later, the gang is dead but so is Penny, whom Brian failed to protect while Philip took care of the gang. In retaliation, Philip beats his brother within an inch of his life. Eventually, they decide to leave the villa but Philip doesn’t have the heart to kill the Penny-zombie so she comes along for the ride. They find Woodbury and decide to stay but it’s far from the cozy town that is depicted in the comic or the TV series. Philip slowly goes completely crazy and becomes “The Governor” but not in the way you might think.
The Rise of the Governor is full of the twists, turns, and gore that you would expect from anything Walking Dead related. It’s great if you’re always hungering for more explanation about what else happened out there in the world that we aren’t seeing with Rick’s group. How else were people surviving? What were those days like when everything was quickly going south? How did the Governor become to twisted and maniacal? Like the comic, much of this book is about how people are dealing with the apocalypse and less about zombies. Philip goes crazy, Brian feels alternately helpless and empowered, Nick turns to faith, and Penny turns silent before turning zombie. They are, at turns, ingenious and stupid, as are the other survivors with whom they come into contact. Clearly, despite a common enemy, we cannot all just get along. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this isn’t a particularly well-written book. I read it quickly because I wanted questions answered, not because the storyline was particularly compelling. This won’t matter to Walking Dead fans but it’s not what I would recommend to introduce someone to the Walking Dead. If you’re already a fan of the comic, read it. If you’re a fan of the TV show and like to read, read it and then read the comics and prepare to have your mind blown because they’re so different from the show. But if you’re just looking for a good zombie book, read World War Z.