“The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor”
by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
read by Fred Berman
published by MacMillan Audio
Approx 11 hours.
Not sure where it all started but I’m really loving this new love of zombies. I do know that a lot of the newfound love of the undead is brought about by the multi-media incursion of the works of Robert Kirkman and “The Walking Dead.” What started out as a simple black and white print comic book has developed into a television series, a couple of novels, a social game as well as many other games available as apps. “The Walking Dead” series is not one of those simple horror films about zombies eating brains, the ongoing story tells the story of survivors and their day to day struggles. The stories all cover politics of a world with a sudden loss of a central government and how to reform social order, or whether that social order can be reformed, all this while trying to avoid being eaten by a horde of zombies.
What really grabs the public’s attention in this is the collection of very human stories that could be anyone, all the characters created in this series are human, make mistakes and have emotions that make the situation very real. Then throw in some adrenaline pushing horror into the mix and you have a well rounded story that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.
One of the storylines in the comics, and currently running in the TV series is that of the “Governer” and his brutal way of maintaining the peace. In the comics we meet the Governor after he has already established his community in Woodbury. His actions are very brutal, like chopping off limbs of people if they don’t see things his way, forcing prisoners to fight zombies and his keeping a little girl zombie locked in a closet and treats her as though she is still alive. But what made the Governor the way he is. I know when reading the comic I thought, my gawd, how can someone be this brutal and insane and yet still have a community allow him to lead?
That’s where this book comes in. When the book was originally released back in 2011, I wanted to read it and had it on my list, but never quite got around to reading it. When it was released in audiobook form later that year, I thought, now’s my chance to grab on. But my list was overpopulated and I still didn’t get around to listening. Now I find out there’s somewhat of a sequel to “Rise of the Governor” released called “The Road to Woodbury” I now have no choice, I can’t fall too far behind. So I latch on to this one and have a copy of “The Road to Woodbury” on top of my stack for the next listening. So that is my journey to getting here, let’s talk about the journey of the Governor, but before I do, after listening to this thrill a minute novel I can see why it took a whole novel just to tell the Governor’s story. It seems that it doesn’t just happen overnight for someone like him to become brutal and insane, even in a zombie apocalypse.
“The Rise of the Governor” begins with the story of brothers Brian and Phillip Blake and Phillip’s daughter, Penny, getting together with their friends, Bobby and Nick and trying to escape the havoc which is the dead rising and eating the living. Doing everything he can to protect Penny, Phillip gets the group loaded in an SUV and seek safety. Following all the TV and radio broadcast instructions to head to Atlanta where a survival area is supposed to be in existence. The first stop the group makes is in a gated community called Wiltshire Estates. Readers of the comic will find Wiltshire Estates familiar as one of the stops for Rick Grimes and his crew, the main characters from the Walking Dead comic and TV series.
Wiltshire Estates appears to be safe and after settling down in one of the homes, the group finds themselves settling in and raiding the nearby houses for supplies. The group begins to reinforce the fence around the community too keep the cannibalistic corpses out. Soon the numbers of walking dead become too much and a weakness in the structure allows the dead to invade. Bobby gets attacked and bitten by a zombie in hiding and soon dies. Before he turns Phillip shoots him in the head. Distraught by the loss of a good friend the remaining group make their escape and continue on to Atlanta, but not before Brian makes a sign warning of the dead inside.
When they arrive in Atlanta they find that the safe zone is a myth and that Atlanta is overrun by millions of zombies. They are trying to escape a horde when they are flagged down by a woman who leads them to safety in an apartment building. The woman is April Chalmers, who is holed up in the first floor of the building with her aged father, David, and her sister Tara. They again think they may have found a place to settle and begin growing a garden on the roof and making escape routes among the buildings as well as routes to scavenge for food and supplies. When David dies of natural causes and turns into a zombie, it is up to Phillip to “kill” the zombie David. Tensions mount between the men and the women, and Phillip does something stupid which results in Tara holding the group at gunpoint forcing them to leave.
Once again the group is on the run trying to survive. They find motorcycles and plan on heading to the Gulf of Mexico to find a place to live out this apocalypse. Along the way Brian keeps getting glimpse and feelings of people following them. Chalked up to paranoia the group ignores his stories. Soon they find themselves in a villa conveniently located on top of a hill and in the middle of a peach orchard which, while they are weaponless, seems like a safe place. The only problem a group of ruthless outlaws soon find the villa and force them to leave. The battle that ensues is one of the most tragic described in the series, this is where Penny gets bitten by a zombie and is turned into one herself.
This is the turning point where Phillip becomes brutal, he fights back with a vengeance and manages to keep alive two of the attacking party, the rest are all killed and destroyed. The two are kept alive in a barn where only Phillip can enter. He tortures the two captives on a daily basis because they are responsible for the death of his Penny. Phillip also has another sign of snapping in that he is keeping Penny alive as a zombie tied to a tree. When Nick and Brian discover what is going on in the barn they kill the two captives, who by this time are begging for their own deaths. Phillip keeps them from killing Penny and eventually they decide the villa is no longer a place to be.
Travelling further the group comes across the community of Woodbury, where no one cares who comes or goes. The group set up in an apartment and the darker side of Woodbury becomes known. The town seems to be run by a group of National guardsmen who charge admission for anyone wanting to watch the car races at the local dirt track. When Brian can’t pay the admission a gun is placed in his mouth as the brutality and bullying ensues.
Phillip sneaks Penny into the apartment and soon begins feeding her fresh cuts of human flesh to the horror of Brian and Nick.
At this point the book becomes very brutal and the Governor takes command but there is a huge twist in the tale that will leave the listener/reader amazed. When the Governor finally takes over the town of Woodbury is destined to be the town seen in the comics and the TV series, but like I said, there’s a twist. Check it out and be ready for a super thrill ride in zombie-land.
The reader of this book, Fred Berman, does a superb job of capturing every thrilling second. He is able to express the emotions, the attitudes and even at times make the book feel like a multi-cast performance. His vocalizations of all the characters is perfect. In fact there were times when I would just get thoroughly lost in the story thanks to his vocal expertise.