Review: The Walking Dead – The Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman, Jay Bonansinga
The Walking Dead is a wildly popular zombie apocalypse television show, spawned from a wildly popular comic book series by the same name. While zombies play a key part in the story that Robert Kirkman tells, the real conflict resides in the relationships of the survivors, focusing on how living in an apocalyptic world can affect one’s humanity.
Also, there’s a lot of zombie killing action and people being eaten.
So, Kirkman teamed up with Jay Bonansinga to write a non-graphic novel (translation for dumb people: no pictures) on the background of one of the story’s villains, a man known as The Governor. In this novel, though, he is known as Phillip Blake, and this novel covers the first several months of Phillip, his brother Billy, his friend Nick, and daughter Penny as they do their best to survive and adapt. They travel from place to place, looking for a secure location they can hope to survive. The conflict is constant and the action is consistent and exciting. The characters were a bit simple, with Penny going into mind numbing shock every time there was violence, or Billy being a pussy every time there was a zombie within 100 yards and hiding behind manly Phillip, who sprang into action like a superhero zombie killing machine whenever it was necessary.
Here’s my biggest gripes, all of which have to do with the writing itself:
The entire book was in present tense. After reading so many books that are written in past tense, the book felt awkward. I get that writers do this to make you feel like the situations in the book are happening along with you, and hope to make it feel more intimate and realistic, but it really bugs me. I hate present tense books. You want to know what else was written in present tense? 50 Shades of Grey. Anything that God awful crap does, you don’t want to do. Other than make millions of dollars, you want to do that part.
For the first quarter of the book, Bonanzasinger and Kirkman went thesaurus crazy for the word “brains”. Every single time they referred to smashing a zombie in the skull, they used a different word for it, half of which were medical terms. After googling “medical terms for brain” I came across LiveStrong’s “Medical Terms for the Parts of the Brain” (it’s the second Google link), and I think this is the site they used too. I saw all of the following about 36 times each in the first quarter of the book: frontal lobe, temporal lobe, parietal lobe (or hemisphere in place of lobe in many cases), occipital lobe, cerebrum, and cerebral cortex. I kept expecting to read something about a zombie’s medulla oblongata being shoved out the back of his skull. For some reason, they backed off on the random medical terminology later on in the book.
The chapter breaks were pretty much nonsense and happened usually in the middle of scenes or conversations and picked up on the next chapter exactly where it left off. So, for instance, we have a chapter whose last line is “The zombie lunges at Phillip, mouth agape”. The first sentence of the next chapter would be “Phillip brings his gun up just in time and shoots the zombie in the face”. I guess they wanted to cliffhang the end of most of their chapters, but there’s really not multiple POVs so all you have to do is turn the page and read the first line of the next chapter to know what happened.
Misuse of the word “mortified.” Here’s a vocabulary lesson: MORTIFIED is synonymous with EMBARASSED or HUMILIATED/HUMILIATING. “I was mortified when my girlfriend walked in on me masturbating.” Just because it sounds and looks like “terrified” or “horrified” does not mean it’s interchangeable. Mortified was used in place of horrified TWICE in this book. Really, You were EMBARASSED that a character got bitten by a zombie? What a wacky situation it must be for you to feel humiliated that someone got their arm eaten off. I don’t know how this can get through someone that writes for a living (shame on you, Kirkman and Bananaslinger), then professional editors, and finally paid proofreaders to be published by a professional publishing company. People get paid to make sure you don’t make those kinds of mistakes.
I don’t know if Kirkman or Bonansalsa is to blame for these complaints. I’ve read most of the comics and the writing isn’t bad. The story itself is entertaining and suspenseful, and if you like the Walking Dead universe and can’t wait for next season to start or the next comic to come out, this may help tide you over. Assuming you’re not as bitchy as me about present tense writing, that is.