Monday, 31 October 2011

The Walking Dead Rise of the Governor: Book Review & Competition

Happy Halloween Zombiology Students,

For a wee treat I'm taking a break from the science journals to review an exciting new novel from Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman. He's teamed up with acclaimed thriller writer Jay Bonansinga to tell us the back story of infamous comic book character, the Governor.

They've certainly set themselves a challenge. Can a notoriously nasty man like Philip Blake find his way into reader's hearts?

Rise of the Governor takes us back to the start of zombie outbreak where we find Philip, his daughter Penny, brother Brian and two high school friends fighting for survival.

During the story our band of survivors take a terrifying trip across the country trying to reach Atlanta and the supposed safety of refugee camps. But in true Walking Dead style, anything, and everything, gets in their way.

Personally I adore the Walking Dead world, and would go as far as to say it's the best imagining of a zombie world since my old pal Georgey Romero created Night of the Living Dead. Kirkman has even given the nod that Romero was his inspiration in forming the world.

As a scientist I too think it's better that little is said about the biological cause of the Zombieism in the Walking Dead. It allows you to theorise with your imagination instead of nit picking your way through reams of illogical made up science. Yes, it might not be possible at present for people to rise from the dead, but, maybe it will happen in future...

If you're a fan of the comic books and the epic, movie style-esque dramatic imagery - don't worry, Rise of the Governor doesn't disappoint. The authors have given careful consideration to mis-en-scene with every blow, slice, stab and shot colourfully described from 'a mop head slapping the floor' to 'the two bodies are launched in a cloud of pink mist.'

An ensemble of characters emerge across the journey. A favourite for me was the Chalmers Family Band, led by Father David and his two daughters, Tara and April. The latter of whom forms an almost romantic relationship with Philip. Here Kirkman does what he does best,  give us real hope, only to snatch it away and leave us lower than ever before.

The tale ends with an unexpected twist, one I of course won't reveal here. I read many reviews that have strong feelings on this, but personally, I have no opinion on it. It's the creative path they choose to follow and I was happy with where it led. No doubt these talented writers could write their way down any avenue they want to explore. In part, the ending does help to answer the question I posed at the outset.

The ending does feel like a hard stop, but this novel is but the first of a trilogy from this new deadly duo, something I for one will be eagerly awaiting. So rather than the end, it's more of a to be continued...

Overall The Walking Dead Rise of the Governor successfully brings the concept to its third medium, and unlike it's screen and graphic incarnations the fact it's purely text lets the reader create the visuals. It's fast paced, addictive and often amusing. For me it's essence is summed up by an elderly gentleman met towards the end of the novel:

It ain't the dead things you gotta be mindful of around's the living.

Pan MacMillan have very kindly given us several copies of The Walking Dead Rise of the Governor for you to win. For your chance to get one send an email to with your name, postal address and answer to this question:

You find yourself alone and unarmed on an Atlanta street during the Walking Dead zombie outbreak. Zombie's close in from all sides. The safe house is still a few blocks away. How would you escape?

Whilst this plan might allow you to pull, it might also cost you your face

The most creative answers win, closing date Monday 28th November 2011, at midday.

Good luck and I hope tonight brings you more treats than tricks,

Doctor Austin
Doctor Austin ZITS BSz MSz DPep, is a Theoretical Zombiologist and Head of the Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies at the University of Glasgow, Scotland UK.

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