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Book Review: The Walking Dead: The Fall of the Governor: Part One by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga (Series, #3) (Audiobook narrated by Fred Berman)

September 11, 2014 1 comment

A line of zombies stand in a green haze. An eye patch looms in the foreground.Summary:
In the aftermath of her rebellion attempt against The Governor, Lilly Caul is starting to see him as a man who does what it takes to protect the citizens of Woodbury.  So when strangers in riot gear and prison suits underneath show up at Woodbury, she believes The Governor that they’re out to get their supplies and that the woman, unprovoked, bit his ear.  But not everyone believes The Governor, and The Governor starts to think he can use the doubters to his advantage.

Review:
This non-graphic novel series telling the backstory of the big bad villain of the graphic novel Walking Dead series started off incredibly strong but, unfortunately, each new entry in the series gets worse and worse.  Instead of lending new light to the backstory of The Governor and Woodbury, this entry retells scenes readers of the graphic novel have already seen, simply from The Governor and other residents of Woodbury’s perspectives.

While I understand that some things readers of the graphic novel series already know may need to be briefly mentioned again for those who are only reading the print books, a sizable portion of this book features scenes already told once in the graphic novels.  Many of these scenes were disturbing enough in the graphic novels, such as the scene in which Michonne is repeatedly raped and beaten by The Governor.  Retelling them from the perspective of The Governor just felt unnecessary and was frankly difficult to listen to.  It would have been better to have left out showing that scene again and instead showed the, well-told and well-done scene of The Governor after her rapes Michonne back in his apartment where he tries to rationalize his behavior.  This lends new insight into the character without forcing the readers to, essentially, re-read.

The characterization of Lilly Caul continued to bother me.  First she hates The Governor and leads a rebellion, then turns right around and becomes loyal to him? What? This makes zero sense and is never fleshed out enough to make sense.  Similarly, how she handles one particular plot development feels like lazy, cliched writing of women, which bothered me.

Speaking of writing of women, while I understand that the third person narration is supposed to simultaneously be from an evil guy’s perspective, how the narrator talked about Michonne really bothered me.  We are constantly reminded that she is black.  She is never just “the woman” she is always “the black woman” or “the dark woman.” Her dreadlocks are mentioned constantly. Whereas white characters, Latino characters, and male characters are referred to once with descriptors about how they look, her looks are constantly described.  I understand looks need to be described periodically, but this is far too heavy-handed and in such a way that it feels like the narrator feels it necessary to constantly remind the reader that she is “other” and “different from us.”  Worse, she is also referred to as a “creature,” etc…, particularly during her rape scenes.  I never felt Michonne was mishandled in the graphic novels.  She’s a bad-ass woman who just happens to be black in the graphic novels.  Here, though, the descriptions of her feel like they are exoticized, which feels entirely wrong for a book in which we mostly just see her being raped.  She is depicted so animalistically, it made my stomach turn.  Even when she is among her friends, the narrator feels it necessary to constantly refer to her otherness.

So what’s done well in this book?  The scenes where we finally learn how the double-cross happens and see it plotted and carried out from the bad guys’ perspective is chilling and enlightening.  It’s also really nice to get to actually see the scene where Michonne beats the crap out of The Governor.  If other scenes had been left out, the characterization of Lilly Caul and descriptions of Michonne handled better, and the whole book tightened up (and probably part two included here), it could have been a strong book.

Overall, fans of the series will be disappointed by the repetition of scenes they’ve already seen and the overall shortness and lack of new information in this book.  Some may be bothered both by how Michonne is presented in this book, far differently from how she is in the graphic novel series, as well as by seeing some of the rapes from The Governor’s perspective.  Recommended to hard-core fans who feel they need to complete reading the companion series to the graphic novels.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor, review
The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury, review

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Book Review: The Walking Dead: The Road To Woodbury by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga (Series, #2) (Audiobook narrated by Fred Berman)

June 8, 2013 1 comment

Silhouette of a woman running down a dark, misty, spooky road.Summary:
Lilly Caul’s father shoved her into a bus escaping town just as the doors were closing. They closed on him and zombies ate him while she watched.  Haunted by the feeling that everyone caring for her puts their own lives in danger, she’s struggling to survive among a rag-tag group of survivors, including her high school friend, Megan.  Slowly her small group of friendly survivors, headed by a big strong black man, Josh Lee, who has feelings for her, breaks off from the main group and find their way to Woodbury.  There, the sinister side of the town gradually reveals itself.

Review:
My understanding of this print companion series to the graphic novel one was that it was going to follow the life of the villain The Governor.  The first book told the backstory of The Governor and brought him to Woodbury, so I was expecting a book showing how he came to rule the town with an iron fist.  Instead this entry covers the backstory of Lilly Caul, and how she comes to Woodbury.  Although it’s always fun to visit this post-apocalyptic land that Kirman and Bonansinga have created, this entry just didn’t have the energy and appeal of the first book in the series.

I have to admit, although I recognized the name Lilly Caul, I couldn’t for the life of me remember who she was at first, so I spent quite a bit of time scratching my brain trying to figure out why we were following her around.  I finally remembered that she’s one of the gang of Woodbury folks who go head-to-head with Rick Grimes’s gang in the graphic novels.  A check of the wiki reminded me that she’s the one who shoots and kills Lori and Judith.  Eh, this explains why I have no strong feelings about her.  I hated Lori and felt nothing about Judith, so I certainly didn’t view her as a memorable villain.  I now get it that the series is trying to show how all of Woodbury happened, not just the tale of The Governor.  But the thing is that if you could tell the story of a compelling figure like The Governor why talk about the girl next door?  It made for a boring book.  There is nothing extraordinary about Lilly.  She’s just a cowardly girl trying to survive an apocalypse, and she does it by leeching on to people who care for her but she seems to be lacking the ability to truly care about anyone besides herself.  She also spends a lot of time slut shaming her “best friend” Megan, which pissed me off to no end.  So we have a woman playing with people’s hearts for protection but simultaneously judging Megan for sleeping with people for protection.  Yuck.  Given all of these aspects of her character, I also found it really unbelievable  that she would *spoiler warning* lead a rebellion against The Governor. *end spoilers*

When we finally do get to Woodbury, The Governor is already in charge, although he has yet to call himself The Governor.  We do get to see what led to the establishment of the gladiator-style arena with the zombies, and we also see more reasons as to why the town folk trust and respect him.  But we see all of this through Lilly, Megan, and Bob’s eyes.  I honestly wanted to know more of the inner workings of The Governor, so I found this third person perspective disappointing.

There’s nothing new or ground-breaking in the horror.  There is one massive swarm of zombies that is clearly supposed to be terrifying, but it did nothing for me.  Maybe I’m just getting acclimated to this world, but neither the characters nor the level of horror increased the intensity enough for me.

That said, even though I didn’t enjoy which characters were focused on or how the plot was constructed, we do learn more about the world of Woodbury, and the post-apocalyptic world in general.  We learn how and why the gladiator ring started, how The Governor won people over, and more about how the weather impacted the survivors on that particular winter.  Long-time fans will find value in reading this book, even though it is by no means a thrilling or thought-provoking entry in the series.  Skim it quickly to get the important bits and move on.  For that reason, I would recommend the print over the audio, in spite of Berman’s talent as a narrator.  He was better than the book he was given.

3 out of 5 stars

Source:  Audible

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Previous Books in Series
The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor, review

Book Review: The Walking Dead, Book Four by Robert Kirkman (Series, #4) (Graphic Novel)

December 29, 2011 3 comments

Pregnant woman in yellow surrounded by zombies.Summary:
After escaping the horrors of Woodbury with two new additions to the group in tow, Rick, Michonne, and Glenn high-tail it back to the prison where they warn the other survivors and start prepping to defend their turf.  Meanwhile daily life goes on, including a birth, more missing limbs, and a wedding.

Review:
This entry in the series is mind-blowingly awesome.  Kirkman demonstrates that he not only is full of surprises, but also pulls no punches.  Our group of survivors have their world torn completely apart. And it’s delicious.

First, we have the return of The Governor, and not as a zombie as I’m sure I wasn’t the only one suspecting.  He is back missing an arm, an eye, and (I think it’s safe to assume) a dick.  This all just makes him even more ferocious and terrifying than before, although that comes as no surprise considering that he is now the man with no penis.  But yes, the full-page shot of him arriving at the prison in top of a tank? Fucking. Awesome.

There’s also a lot more zombie action this time around, although I do wonder why it is in pretty much every post-apocalyptic zombie books, no one calls them what they are?  The prison folks say roamers, and the Woodbury folks say biters. Um, hello? They are zombies. Be realistic, people. Distancing yourself from your fears won’t help any.  In any case, those of us who are huge fans of zombies are pleasantly greeted with many more and varied drawings of them, as well as attacks on people.  Zombie gnawing on a dude’s leg? Yes, please.

On a more serious note, the theme of this entry is war.  It’s war on a small scale, but it is still war.  This is actually quite cool, because it allows Kirkman to show the dangers of war and truthiness on an easier to understand, up-close-and-personal level.  The Governor is smart.  He manipulates his people (except those closest to him) into believing that those at the prison are the type of evil that he, in fact, is.  They thus go in hell-bent on murdering innocent people, who then have to shoot back to defend themselves.  The most powerful moment of this, of course, is when a woman from Woodbury realizes she has killed a baby and essentially loses her mind from the instantaneous guilt.  It’s a powerful lesson (or reminder) to readers presented in a unique package.  The distancing of the situation from reality by the presence of zombies only allows the clarity of the concept of an unjust war to really sink in.

This is absolutely the best entry in the series so far.  I cannot wait to find out what happens to the demolished survivors next.  Fans of the earlier books should pick this one up asap.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Three (review)

Book Review: The Walking Dead, Book Three by Robert Kirkman (Series, #3) (Graphic Novel)

December 27, 2011 4 comments

Zombies surrounding a man in green.Summary:
The rag-tag band of survivors have adjusted to living in the prison.  One day they spot a helicopter go down in flames.  Rick, Michonne, and Glenn head out to check on it and end up finding another group of survivors whose leader is known as The Governor.  Unfortunately for them, not everyone has maintained their humanity amid the walking dead.

Review:
This entry in the series puts the graphic in graphic novel.  We’re talking mutilation, torture, and rape.  Also the usual murders and zombies.  It is not a book for those disturbed by those things or who find them gratuitous.  However, for those of us who love violence all up in our literature, it’s a squee-inducing violence fest.  Although you may not want to read it in public just in case someone glances over your shoulder during the rape and/or torture scenes.

The addition of another group of survivors where everything is not hunky dory and evil has arisen was exactly what this series needed.  It shows the very dark possibilities that the group we’ve been following have thus far managed to avoid.  It puts things like Tyreese and Rick’s fight in the previous book into perspective.  Woodbury and The Governor also demonstrate how key Rick has been to the group’s survival and maintenance of a healthy community.  All it takes is one bad apple wanting the power for a bad culture to spring up.  It’s a good lesson that’s taught here in a subtle way.

I thought long and hard about how I feel about Michonne’s rape.  At first I was angry about it with reactions ranging from, “she’s so strong; it doesn’t make sense” to “oh sure, rape the only black woman *eye-roll*.”  But the more I thought about it I realized I was being unfair.  In a world gone to hell and full of evil rape is going to happen.  Rape happens every day now let alone in a post-apocalyptic world, and Kirkman manages to show it in a graphic novel in a way that is respectful to the victim, which I am sure was not easy to do.  The concept of what is happening is clear, but at the same time, the drawings focus in on the victim’s emotions and reactions.  Similarly, Michonne is the logical choice because she is the most adventurous of the women.  She does not stay at home with the kids while the men run out and do things.  She’s a strong woman, yes, but being strong doesn’t stop bad things from happening to you.  That said, if you are a person who finds rape scene triggering, you should definitely skip this entry in the series and get someone to sum it up for you.

Overall, this is a strong entry that keeps the series fresh and introduces more drama into the post-apocalyptic world.  Fans of the first two books will not be disappointed by this one.  Highly recommended.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)