“The Walking Dead: The Road to Woodbury”
by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
read by Fred Berman
Published by MacMillan Audio
Running time: 10 hours
For the year 2013, I’m declaring February Zombie month. This is the month when the phenomenal TV series, “The Walking Dead” starts back up to finish up season 3 this month, I have just caught up to issue #106 of the comic book series and I have just finished listening to the second audiobook written as a companion to the series. I am ready for more zombies.
The two novels written in this series coincide with the comic books and not the TV series. The first novel was “Rise of the Governor” and the sequel to that novel is this one “The Road to Woodbury.” Both novels follow the stories of two characters that were introduced early in the comic book series. The first one covered the Governor and how he became leader of the settlement called Woodbury. In the comics the Governor is much more brutal than the one portrayed in the TV series, at least so far. This time around we are told the backstory of Lilly and in part, that of a lesser characters, Bob and Martinez. In the comics Lilly is the one that puts a bullet into the head of the Governor after the attack on the prison. At first those only knowing “The Walking Dead” through the TV series may see this as a spoiler, but anyone that has read the comics knows, the TV series has branched off in directions that stray a bit from the comic book storyline enough that the TV series can go anywhere and it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen.
The bulk of this novel is the development of the character of Lilly. When I read the comics I didn’t think too much about her character. In fact, I considered her pretty much a lesser character, but with a major role. Someone had to kill the Governor, really he had to die, so she was chosen. Apparently she was enough of a character for Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga to tell her story, and I’m glad she was. This book is a great survival story like all of the stories from all forms of “The Walking Dead” multimedia experience, but what made this novel even better for me was zombie clowns and circus performers. More on the zombie clowns later.
Before I summarize the meat of this book, I’ve got to first talk about the reader, Fred Berman. Mr. Berman does an outstanding job of bringing this book to life. Not only does he provide each character a voice, but he is able to make all the emotions and actions of the characters come out in their voices. At times it nearly seems like this is a multi-cast performance. This book is a full audio experience thanks to the voice talents of Fred Berman.
“The Road to Woodbury” starts out with a group of survivors setting up a tent village putting together all their efforts to stave off the zombie apocalypse. The center of this makeshift survivor campground is a circus big top tent, left behind when the plague hit. Now, if you are like me, then you probably see the problem with this from the start. I had to wonder what was going on, why on Earth would anyone think a tent village would be safe in a zombie apocalypse? The flaw is soon discovered when a herd of zombies attack and some children, which were under the care of Lilly are under attack, while most of the others in the group are out scavenging for food and supplies. Lilly manages to save three of the four, but when the oldest of the kids gets spooked and runs away, she soon meets her demise under the chomping teeth of zombies.
The father of the children becomes distraught and begins beating on Lilly, breaking some ribs and fracturing her jaw, seeing this, a man who is somewhat of a love interest, Josh Lee Hamilton, comes to her rescue and beats up the man. The problem is that all of Josh’s pent up frustrations come out and he kills the man. The people in the tent village discuss this and decide to exile Josh. Lilly is furious with this and while in no condition to do anything, she decides to leave with Josh. Possibly seeing what is to come, Lilly’s high school friend and her boyfriend, a stoner couple who spend the apocalypse getting high, decide to go with them. Also deciding to leave is former Marine medic, now never sober, Bob Stookey.
The group of 5 leave the tent village and find an abandoned gas station. Josh and Lilly head out scavenging for food, actually Josh has in mind to hunt down one of the many deer in the area, when a herd of deer are spooked their direction, fleeing from something the deer run right past the two humans, soon Josh and Lilly discover the horror that has the deer spooked. It is at this moment that the creepiest scene in any zombie story ever occurs. The zombified members of the circus which the members of the village were using the big top tent, is leading a herd of undead heading straight for Josh. The authors describe in detail the characters that are now flesh eating zombies from this circus. There are clown zombies, the fat lady zombie, acrobat and contortionist zombies and many more. Just take a circus and freak show from the early days of touring circuses and turn all its members into zombies and have them travelling in a herd toward the survivors. Yes it gets creepy.
Later, while regrouping and trying to decide what to do next, the tent village seems to come under attack. Not knowing what is going on but seeing the flames and hearing the noise from the tent village it can’t be good. A couple of vehicles approach the gas station as they are fleeing from the village, but do not stop and ram into the station destroying the outcasts’ shelter.
This sends the outcasts on the road again and after walking dead encounters they come across an abandoned Wal-Mart superstore. Gathering what is left of the looted store for survival supplies the group is confronted by a group of men. The leader of the men, Martinez, tells the group of a town that is full of survivors working together to ensure they all survive. Thinking this too good to be true, but tired of being on the road the group follows the men to Woodbury and meet the Governor.
The group discovers that Woodbury is not all it seems to be. An evil is lurking beneath the town and at the cost of lives the Governor is becoming more and more brutal.
Along with the book “Rise of the Governor,” “The Road to Woodbury,” is a great addition in the world of “The Walking Dead.” Whether you are a fan of the comics, the TV series or both these books should be added to your must read now list.